St. Charles still doesn't have a rainmaker to draw business to the city, but the fog around how economic development recruitment has lifted.
The city lost its previous economic development director and economic development coordinator within six weeks of each other this past summer. Those changes gutted the staffing in the three-member department. At the time, Mayor Ray Rogina said city officials would take some time to re-evaluate the structure and mission of the department.
"If you're going to have an economic development director, that person has to be a rainmaker," Rogina said in a July interview.
But on Monday night, city officials unveiled a different strategy. Aldermen gave preliminary approval to a department reorganization. The change would place Rita Tungare into a new role as director of community and economic development. She is currently the longtime director of community development. The new position both expands Tungare's responsibilities and merges the two city departments.
City Administrator Mark Koenen said the change will save money (about $100,000 a year) for the city by elimination one staff position. But Koenen said the real advantage is eliminating administrative red tape for new and existing businesses in town.
"This means when you come to the city of St. Charles, and when you locate your business here, you will talk to one department," Koenen said. "It's one-stop shopping and certainly more friendly for new businesses."
Tungare will both supervise and oversee the hiring of another new position called an economic development division manager. It's that person who would come closest to filling Rogina's vision of a "rainmaker" to lure in new business. However, Rogina backed away from that description in an interview Monday night.
"Rainmaker implies that we're out there making the market," Rogina said. "I'm not ready to go there yet. The market is still set by the private sector. We're responsible to lend some assistance to that the best we can. A big part of that responsibility, in my opinion, is to make sure that our businesses stay successful."
Tungare's upward mobility furthers a trend of promotion from within under Rogina's tenure. Koenen was the city's public works director before being named city administrator just a few months ago. Longtime Assistant Fire Chief Joe Schelstreet was also named fire chief this past summer.
Asked if he expects more upward mobility from within the existing city staff, Rogina said there is good reason for all the recent changes.
"We have talent inside," Rogina said. "If you've got talent inside, you at least look at it. Now, there will be some situations where maybe it's good to look outside."
City officials are in the process of dealing with the recent departure of Police Chief Jim Lamkin. Rogina said an interim chief will be named next week from two inside candidates.