Newly appointed city manager hopes to enhance city, university relationship


In this Jan. 14 photo, DeKalb City Manager Bill Nicklas sits at his desk and reviews documents after stepping into the position.

By Taher Zeituoun

DeKalb — Bill Nicklas is hired as DeKalb city manager to help strengthen community budget and repair financial infrastructure.

The goal of the city manager is to ensure City Council policies are implemented effectively by providing management in regard to all areas of city government, according to the city of DeKalb’s website.

DeKalb Mayor Jerry Smith said he was very involved in the search process for the new candidate to fill the position and is delighted with the council’s choice.

Smith said the city started the search in June with 50 applicants and utilized the help of GovHR USA, a recruitment, consulting and interim staffing services for the public and non-profit sectors. After a majority vote by the council was passed approving the use of recruitment firm, GovHR was chosen from a list of candidates.

Related: City Council looks to staffing solutions


The 50 candidates were narrowed down to three and then interviewed by multiple panels including community members, city  business department heads and both union and non-union city employees interviewed the final three applicants. Smith said Nicklas was chosen after the interviews and was confidently pleased with the decision.

Nicklas said the biggest challenge will be bringing stability to the city’s budget and the structural problems within regarding the financial budget.. He said after a rigorous review of last years 2018 budget, the council is aware of the imbalances. He also understands issues concerning support for pensions and health insurance plans fall under his watch.

He also said he is excited to take on the role of outward director in order to revitalize downtown, and there were huge steps made last year in economic development which helped attract new businesses.

He said it is important to restore and develop relationships with other taxing bodies, such as NIU. He also said having the university so close to town brings a multitude of benefits that will help with the revitalization plan

Nicklas sees the importance of increasing the declining NIU Enrollment rate to allow for increased involvement between the university and the town. He said strengthening this relationship can only offer incremental benefits for both parties.

Related: DeKalb moves forward with city manager search

“NIU is a key partner due to its institution being the largest employer of key entities in the geographical area,” Nicklas said. “The attractions the university offers helps bring people to our town through celebration of culture and athletic activities.”

Nicklas said he is confident in his position because of his long track record in city government. He served as Dekalb city manager for 5 years dating back to November 1992 to August 1997, and also in Sycamore from 1998 to 2011.Before being elected he was serving as the special assistant to Kishwaukee College President Laurie Borowicz.

Borowicz worked closely with Nicklas and speaks highly of his professionalism.

“[Niklas] was incredibly dedicated and committed to whatever projects were in front of him and had an incredible work ethic while working as my special assistant for the past couple of years,” Borowicz said.

She said Nicklas displayed an unwavering loyalty to herself and Kishwaukee College during his years of service, and his experience and ability to understand what needs to be done will allow him to effectively move things forward in his new role.

Borowicz said although she is sad to see him go, she understands the importance of establishing a strong, working relationship between the communities.

Related: City Council continues city manager search

“It is extremely important for DeKalb, Sycamore, Kishwaukee and NIU to partner together in order to strengthen the community,” Borowicz said. “Seeing [Nicklas] venture into a position where I know he can make a difference will make Kishwaukee and all surrounding counties stronger.”

Smith said he was very involved in the search process for the new candidate to fill the position and is delighted with the council’s choice.

Smith said Nicklas’ history with the town, as well as his empathy for the community, will be his biggest asset.

“The city faces a situation regarding tremendous budgetary factors , one of them being the large enrollment drop at NIU,” Smith said. “[Niklas] will have to work on looking at things from all perspectives, including his own, and that may call for major constructional change.”

Related: Council to find new manager

Brittney Austin, 28, of DeKalb, said she is relieved the search is finally over, and she is optimistic for improvements concerning the town budget to be resolved.

She also said she is excited to have someone with experience who is involved with the community to take over as city manager.

“With a job like city manager, it is important to have someone with experience take over the position, but the fact that [Nicklas] has experience within the community of DeKalb makes me feel more secure financially as one of its citizens,” Austin said.

Nicklas is already hard at work in his new role and looks forward to the changes he hopes to initiate moving forward.

Related: City manager to leave position Tuesday

He said he understands the value of gaining friends and colleagues by working with institutions that have deep roots in the area.

“I am truly humbled to be given the opportunity to bring people together with different views and work toward a common purpose to better our community,” Nicklas said.