Lake County's new administrator eager to learn about the region and its people
Newly hired Lake County Administrator Bill Panos said one of his first big tasks will be delving into the county's history.
And he doesn't just mean learning important dates and places. The California native is looking forward to discovering the history of its businesses, its politics and its communities.
"It's all very important to implementing board policy," Panos said.
Panos, 56, starts his new job Monday. He comes to Lake County from Wyoming, where he had been the director of the state's transportation department since 2016.
Panos replaces Barry Burton, who departed as administrator in October to take a job in Florida. Deputy County Administrator Amy McEwan has served as the interim administrator.
Panos, whose wife has relatives living in the Chicago area, was among 44 applicants for the job.
"The more I learned about Lake County, the more interested I became," he said.
Before leading Wyoming's transportation department, Panos served as director of that state's school facilities department. He also worked as a city or state official in California, Washington and Idaho, among other jobs.
County board member Adam Didech, a Buffalo Grove Democrat, called Panos "a phenomenal candidate."
"Bill is highly qualified, and I'm excited for his creative, positive approach," Didech said.
Fellow board member Dick Barr, a Round Lake Beach Republican, singled out Panos' testimony before Congress on transportation issues as noteworthy.
"His expertise in transportation comes at the exact right time when infrastructure is in need of much work, and new sources of revenue are being made available by the state and the federal government," Barr said. "I also hope his connections in high levels of government will work to serve the residents of Lake County in many ways we have not yet imagined."
As Lake County's top administrator, Panos will oversee more than 2,700 employees and a $525 million annual budget.
He will collect a $225,000 annual salary his first year, as well as medical and other benefits. Lake County will cover his moving expenses, too, and temporary housing costs of $2,000 a month for up to six months, according to county documents.
Panos said government efficiency and finding ways to share services will be among his priorities. He also wants to work with businesses and build strong relationships with the communities the county government serves.
"I deeply believe in the role of community partners as we deal with ... current and future challenges," he said during Tuesday's board meeting.
Panos noted that his job is apolitical -- an important distinction due to concerns about partisanship on the 21-member county board that have risen since Democrats seized majority control in the 2018 election.
Barr said he hopes Panos can help the board come together and "work more as a team and less as factions."
County board member Paul Frank called Panos' hiring one of the most significant moves the board has made this year.
"He's going to bring a fresh leadership perspective to Lake County government," said Frank, a Highland Park Democrat.