Mundelein village administrator puts retirement on hold due to COVID-19 crisis
Mundelein Village Administrator John Lobaito was supposed to retire early next month -- but he's agreed to stick around indefinitely because of the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic crisis.
"It just wouldn't be right for me to leave under these circumstances," said Lobaito, 59. "Mundelein has been good to me ... and I want to make sure that when I leave, the community is in the best possible financial position going forward."
Lobaito announced in December that he intended to retire June 5, and village officials had hoped to hire his successor by this past April. The pandemic has put that hiring on hold.
"We can't even do face-to-face interviews at this moment," Trustee Ray Semple said. "It's really a terrible time to make this transition."
Mayor Steve Lentz believes keeping Lobaito aboard during this crisis should be good for Mundelein because he helped steer the town through tough economic times before, most notably the Great Recession more than a decade ago.
"John has been a rock-solid village administrator for many years," Lentz said. "His leadership right now is greatly appreciated."
Lobaito, of McHenry, has been Mundelein's top administrator since 2005. After he announced his intent to retire, the village board hired a firm called GovHR USA to find his replacement.
But within months, the COVID-19 pandemic hit the U.S. and Mundelein.
"Hitting the pause button" on the recruiting process was the right thing to do, Semple said. Mundelein officials are just starting to see how the pandemic is affecting the local economy, he said, including permanent business closures.
"We want to be sure the new administrator is set up to take off running in an environment that she or he can succeed in," Semple said.
Additionally, Semple said it'd be wrong to "steal away" an administrator from another community that's likely dealing with the same terrible issues.
Under a deal approved by the village board this week, Lobaito will work as an independent contractor starting June 6. His pay will be equal to the salary he'd been earning as village administrator, which amounts to about $17,032 a month, documents indicate.
Mundelein no longer will contribute to Lobaito's governmental retirement funds or give him a car allowance. Additionally, Lobaito won't have health insurance or other employee benefits from the village.
Officials believe keeping Lobaito on board as a contractor will save the village about $4,000 per month in wages and benefits.
Lobaito said working as a contractor will be psychologically beneficial for him.
"It brings into reality that I am still moving into retirement, however temporarily delayed after more than 40 years of continuous employment," he said.
As for the search for Lobaito's successor, Lentz said personal interviews with finalists for the job could be held in June if Gov. J.B. Pritzker eases safety restrictions.
Officials anticipate having a new administrator aboard -- and allowing Lobaito to finally enjoy retirement -- in August or September.
"Hopefully John can walk away in time to enjoy some of the summer," Semple said.