Scott Niehaus has ideas for how to move Lombard forward, but he compares his new role as village manager to that of a CEO working for a board of directors.
"The village board sets the priorities. I don't," he said. "I supervise the day-to-day operations of the community and I work directly for the mayor and the village board. They set policy, they pass legislation, they approve the budget and my duty is to make sure that the day-to-day operations follow those policies and are done within that budget and that the legislation is adhered to."
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Before he started his position on Jan. 21, Niehaus said he made it a point to meet with every member of the village board for coffee or breakfast. He said their priorities were consistent with what they requested in a job notice for the position, which has been held by the village's finance director, Tim Sexton, since former village manager David Hulseberg retired last September.
Those priorities, he said, include managing fiscal issues, economic development, staff development and strengthening intergovernmental relations with the park district, library, school districts and the county.
"Lombard is a very professionally run community," Niehaus said, adding that he has yet to hear anyone complain that the village isn't providing essential services. "It's a very complex organization and I don't believe that I was hired as a change agent, as much as someone who can keep the village going on the positive path that it is on."
Prior to taking on his current role, Niehaus worked for 10 years as village manager of Tinley Park, which he said is comparable to Lombard in many ways.
"There are a lot of similarities between Tinley Park and Lombard," he said. "The size -- Tinley Park is 57,000 people, so it's large. Tinley Park has a convention center. Lombard has the Westin and conference center. Tinley Park has a large sales tax base. Lombard has Yorktown Mall. So I think those are things I have in my past experience that I believe made me attractive to the village of Lombard and will help me do my job better out of the gate."
Besides working for Tinley Park, Niehaus served as assistant to the village manager in Elk Grove Village from 1993 to 1998. During college, he also worked as a summer employee for the Elmhurst public works department.
Some accomplishments Niehaus highlighted from his time in Tinley Park included the construction of two train stations, implementing quiet zones along train lines, negotiating a 40-year agreement to purchase water from another suburb, modifying an expansion to the convention center and maintaining fiscal operations during the recession.
Niehaus said he hopes to introduce a wellness program he has experience with and some fiscal policies he's previously worked on to the village board. He added that he is continuing to research DuPage County and look at how other towns have addressed issues similar to the ones Lombard faces.
"In terms of government, if there are successful programs that have been proven to work, we (village managers) tend to call each other and copy and paste," he said. "Generally, we all know each other, and if a town has addressed the same thing, you can call them up. That's not to discount the unique nature of Lombard, but those are just things that (you can say) 'hey, it's 80 percent of the way done,' and then you can put your local flavor on it."
Besides being excited about his new position, Niehaus said he is happy to be closer to his mother, who lives near village hall, and his father, who is in a nursing home in the village.
"Family is important," he said. "(This job) was a way to work and serve the citizens of Lombard, but also be helpful to my parents."
Niehaus' contract runs through May 2017 and pays an initial salary of $165,000 a year. Residents are invited to meet with Niehaus during an open house scheduled for 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 20, in the community room at village hall.