Mark Koenen has been the guy that's kept the infrastructure of St. Charles running for the last 23 years. But come Aug. 31, he'll be expected to keep all of St. Charles running. It's not a job he even thought about doing up until the past few weeks.
"I was surprised when they approached me because I hadn't considered myself as that individual," Koenen said. "Rather, I considered myself as the engineer. But I think I'm ready for the position."
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Aldermen will publicly state if they think Koenen is ready when they vote on a contract that would name him as the new city administrator Aug. 19. Mayor Ray Rogina said Wednesday he expects a unanimous vote to approve his hand-picked heir apparent to departing City Administrator Brian Townsend. Townsend is leaving Aug. 31 to become the village manager in Schaumburg.
Koenen became convinced of his aptitude for the role after Rogina described it to him as a position that entailed deep collaboration with city workers, elected officials and outside government agencies and would-be developers. Those are all things Koenen has already done for many years as the city's public works director. In fact, right now he is shepherding the ongoing construction on East Main Street, which involves a collaboration with state officials and construction contractors as well as city personnel.
"I'll be very pleased when that project is complete," Koenen said. "That will be the grand opening for a renewed East Main Street and Main Street corridor."
Koenen said he sees activity heating up with the troubled Charlestowne Mall once that construction is complete. The mall is for sale and having better traffic flow around the mall will only facilitate that change, Koenen said.
His early plan for the office involve focusing on "quality of life" improvements for city residents. That means harnessing any momentum created by the reviving economy to turn the downtown into an entertainment destination, with the Arcada Theatre as a hub.
But his first goal as city administrator will be to calm the waters after a series of senior staff departures. Townsend's exodus was preceded by the loss of Chris Aiston, the city's economic development director. And Koenen's move will create a void in public works, the city's largest department.
"I'll be focused on creating an environment that is again stable, and in re-establishing solid relationships," Koenen said.
The details of Koenen's contract are not yet final. Rogina said Koenen has agreed, in principal, to taking the position and to a contract that lasts the duration of Rogina's current term as mayor.