Kane County will mark Sept. 2 as another fresh start for its embattled animal control agency as a new employee with Chicago credentials will take on the role of full-time director.
Drew Frasz, the county board's vice chairman, said Brett Youngsteadt was the only applicant who really met the full scope of qualifications. Youngsteadt is the shelter manager of the city of Chicago's Animal Care and Control main office. He's in charge of more than 500 animals at a time and took an active role in seeing those animals find new homes.
"It was a much larger operation he's coming from," Frasz said. "So you always wonder when you hire someone why they want to leave their current job. He's reached the ceiling you can go without having to jump into the city's patronage system. And he has a 2-year-old daughter he wants to move to Kane County before starting school."
Frasz said it was Youngsteadt's enthusiastic interview that really complemented his resume. A taste of that can be discerned from a June 2013 article on the Chicago Wolves website. The article describes Youngsteadt's success at pairing shelter dogs with new families at the Wolves' "Adopt-A-Dog" nights. It quotes Youngsteadt saying the city's adoption figures have grown in recent years.
But perhaps even more endearing to pet lovers, Youngsteadt is quoted in the article saying one of his goals is having an animal shelter where "people know when they surrender their animal, it's to a place that cares about it, and cares about where it's going and how it's treated."
Frasz said if Youngsteadt brings that same approach to Kane County, his tenure should be far less stormy than the last two directors the county hired. Neither of them lasted a full year on the job.
"He has a good plan, which is to go in there, assess the situation, learn, and not make a lot of big moves for the first few weeks," Frasz said. "He'll make determinations about what he wants to change and what he wants to leave after he meets the staff and gets a comfortable rapport with them."
Youngsteadt also has an education background in veterinary medicine, though he doesn't have an actual license to practice.
Public Health Executive Director Barb Jeffers and her staff at the county health department have been running the day-to-day operations of animal control during the director search. She said the goal is have a new leader than can put the previous failures of the department in the past and build anew.
"He's coming in at a great time really because, financially, we are in the black," Jeffers said. "So some goals will be to maintain that and increase the revenue based on outreach to the community, and really bring leadership, stability and engage our community."
The board unanimously approved Youngsteadt's appointment Tuesday at a salary of $75,000. He earns about $67,000 in Chicago.