Kane County Board members are expected to end a three-month search for a new animal control director next week, and the process has been much smoother this time.
A vote to hire the new director Tuesday will complete a hiring process different from the route officials took in selecting the previous administrator.
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Various county board committees have met in short, closed-door meetings the past few weeks to iron out any questions or concerns board members might have about the candidate. A small committee of board members and staff members selected the finalist, who emerged in an expanded search beyond the initial applicant pool.
Officials privy to the process said the finalist has an education background in veterinary medicine and works in management for another animal care and control agency in Illinois.
That fits in line with desired qualifications listed by Kane County Public Health Executive Director Barb Jeffers. She oversees animal control in addition to her duties at the health department.
Jeffers said in a recent interview she wants a director with experience in operations, management, government and familiarity with the local animal population.
Though the agency has been without a full-time director for three months, the management situation has not risen to the level of an emergency. That's the word used by county board Chairman Chris Lauzen when he hired a former political running mate, Robert Sauceda, to be the agency's billing manager in early 2013.
At the time, animal control had been without a director for about seven months, and finances hit a low point that left the agency unable to repay money it borrowed to build an animal shelter.
The hiring followed just one closed-door meeting and drew criticism from several board members who didn't like the creation of a new county job for someone with political ties to its chairman.
But a year later, the county board elevated Sauceda to interim director after the department received significant new revenue through increased attention to debt collection and animal tag renewal fees.
That goodwill dissolved when Sauceda and a female employee were placed on administrative leave and the Kane County state's attorney initiated an investigation into "personnel matters." Sauceda quit. The female employee is back to work at the county.
Lauzen labeled the immediate aftermath of Sauceda's tenure a "stress time" for the agency. But the search process itself is showing no signs of stress.
In recent interviews, Lauzen said having another year of experience and working together has made the difference in the current search process for both himself and the board. There is no rush nor emergency. There is no acrimony. The focus is on finding the best candidate.
"I've learned a lot, and I think that the board is making enormous progress in respecting each other during the process," he said. "So far so good. Everybody is confident that this is a good candidate. What a difference a year makes."