Bucking what seems to be the trend for growing small communities, Pingree Grove will implement a new organizational structure that doesn't include a village administrator.
Under the new model, the village board will make policy decisions and oversee Police Chief Carol Lussky, plus three new positions -- a finance director, a public works director and an office and communications specialist. The village is currently recruiting candidates.
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Ken Lopez, the village's top administrator, was fired in early September; since then, Lussky has been serving as an interim village administrator.
"The new structure in essence has divided the village administrator responsibilities among a number of highly experienced personnel," Village President Greg Marston said. "This increases our investment in strategically key areas of operational activity while maintaining our commitment of a balanced budget."
The new model will results in salary savings of $75,000 to $85,000, equivalent to a full-time employee in the public works or police departments, Marston said.
The village board -- which unanimously approved implementing the new organizational structure -- will decide whether to hire more staff during upcoming budget discussions, he said.
"We believe going outside the 'norm' of traditional municipal staffing we will be better able to service the residents of Pingree Grove," Marston said.
Trustee Ray LaMarca agreed.
"For the next phase of the village of Pingree Grove, it's the right thing to do," he said.
"Each department will be able to best run and manage what they need to do on a day-to-day basis. The end result is that each department theoretically reports to the board as a whole."
During the transition, a consulting firm will help village staff work on the 2014-15 budget, which starts May 1, and an economic development consulting firm will be hired in the near future, LaMarca said.
Few suburbs do without village administrators or managers.
Campton Hills, which at 11,000 residents is about 2½ times larger than Pingree Grove, recently hired its first village administrator, said Village President Patsy Smith.
Incorporated in 2007, Campton Hills needed to save money, so Smith served as village president while performing the administrator's duties, aided by more than 50 or 60 volunteers who served on committees, she said.
The village also employs a police chief, part-time administrative and building and zoning staff, and contracts for a village treasurer.
"This was a full-time job for me, and I certainly could not have done what I've done if I had younger children still at home and was working somewhere else."
North Aurora Village President Dale Berman agreed that, in the absence of a village administrator, the village president usually ends up spending more time on municipal affairs.
Berman was retired when he took on the village administrator's duties while serving as village president for about two years, he said. North Aurora has about 16,000 residents.
"I had the time to devote to it, and I did. I spent several hours every day at the village hall," he said.
Having the right staff members is crucial, Berman added. The village also has professional staff working in public works, finance, community development and economic development, he said.
Marston, who works full-time at Aramark Healthcare, acknowledged that he might have to spend more time on Pingree Grove affairs, so as to resolve any conflicting interests among departments.
"This is why it will be crucial to identify candidates who, while highly qualified in their specific areas, are also able to see the big picture, and work well together as a team to carry out the directives of the village board."