'A new time for our community:' How St. Charles is dealing with key leadership departures

  • New St. Charles City Administrator Heather McGuire addresses a recent council meeting. McGuire took the reins in July from Mark Koenen, who retired after nearly 40 years working for the city.

    New St. Charles City Administrator Heather McGuire addresses a recent council meeting. McGuire took the reins in July from Mark Koenen, who retired after nearly 40 years working for the city. Courtesy of city of St. Charles

  • Rich Balla was sworn in last week as a Ward 1 St. Charles alderman, joining four new aldermen who were elected in April.

    Rich Balla was sworn in last week as a Ward 1 St. Charles alderman, joining four new aldermen who were elected in April. Courtesy of city of St. Charles

  • St. Charles Alderman Todd Bancroft, left, and Mayor Lora Vitek bid farewell to Ward 1 Alderman Dan Stellato, right, who stepped down in June to move to Arizona.

    St. Charles Alderman Todd Bancroft, left, and Mayor Lora Vitek bid farewell to Ward 1 Alderman Dan Stellato, right, who stepped down in June to move to Arizona. Courtesy of city of St. Charles

 
 
Posted8/9/2021 5:30 AM

Newly elected Mayor Lora Vitek had a list of priorities for the city of St. Charles when she took the reins in May.

Near the top of the list was finding a replacement for longtime City Administrator Mark Koenen, who announced several months earlier he'd be retiring after nearly 40 years with the city. Vitek also knew half of the city council would be new and the incoming aldermen needed to be brought up to speed quickly.

 

The revolving door, though, hasn't stopped spinning.

Last week Richard Balla was sworn in as a Ward 1 alderman to replace Dan Stellato, the city's longest-tenured city council member who stepped down to move to Arizona.

Since the April election, the city staff has endured a string of key departures, including department heads.

Finance Director Chris Minick is leaving to become chief financial officer in Aurora, while Community and Economic Development Director Rita Tungare is retiring.

In those two departures alone, the city is losing 35 years of experience.

But with a new city administrator in place to help guide the transition, Vitek is taking the turmoil in stride.

"This is a new time for our community, but we're still continuing on the path of growth and development," Vitek said. "These are the changes that are happening as part of it."

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Getting Heather McGuire on board last month as city administrator was a huge first step for Vitek, who won the mayoral election in April to replace retiring Ray Rogina. In McGuire's first two weeks since leaving her job as Crest Hill's city administrator, she's been in scores of meetings getting to know staff members and evaluating personnel needs.

With the departures of Minick, Tungare and Economic Development Planner Ciara Miller, who also is moving out of state, McGuire is using the opportunity to reorganize parts of the staff. It starts with splitting Tungare's role into separate community and economic development departments, an expansion the city council likely will approve with the creation of an economic development director position.

"One of the exciting things (about taking the St. Charles job) was there was a new mayor and a lot of new members on the city council," McGuire said.

"I think that demonstrated a desire to kind of shift away from the status quo, and I feel like I excel in those scenarios. I was really excited to be part of that transition."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

It won't be easy filling multiple director-level jobs, but last week the city's aldermen approved a compensation study to evaluate employee recruitment practices and analyze pay grades. St. Charles Human Resources Director Jennifer McMahon noted the importance of ensuring the city is a competitive destination for top candidates.

"It's a good idea to do that once every few years just to check in to see if our compensation structure and our philosophy is working," McMahon said.

Vitek said she doesn't have a timeline for filling the holes, but she is confident in the process.

She also is confident in the remaining staff to keep the city moving in the right direction.

"I've met with the staff and gotten feedback from them, and I think we're OK," she said. "Our plan is to manage this and move on to the next thing."

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