City Council looks continues search for next city manager

By Ali Combs

City Council will look to fill the soon-to-be vacated city manager position upon inauguration.

On Feb. 27, City Manager Mark Biernacki announced his intent to retire in a letter to Mayor Kris Povlsen. The search for a new city manager will take place soon after new City Council officials are sworn in on May 6. Biernacki is in the process of preparing a report about the search process.

Mayor-elect John Rey said he expects the council to begin the search immediately.

“The City Council will be grouping beginning May 13…,” Rey said. “I’m sure discussions of that search process are going to begin, if not before that time, shortly thereafter. Whether that’s an internal search process with human resources participating or with an external search firm is yet to be determined.”

Second ward alderman-elect Bill Finucane said said many city manager positions in northern Illinois are filled by NIU graduates.

“The [public administration masters] program at Northern has produced the vast majority of city managers across northern Illinois,” Finucane said. “We need someone with basic education and someone who has been out in the field for a while getting practical experience…. Whether we need to use a search firm is something the mayor and council will have to ponder a little bit. Maybe with a university in town we can use the program as a resource rather than a search firm.”

The city manager plays a role in various departments throughout the city. Rey said the city manager is responsible for the city’s operations and following through with the decisions council makes.

The most important role of city manager is administering the city activities on a day-to-day basis, Rey said.

“City Council really sets the policy framework for those day-to-day activities to occur. The city manager is a full-time position that works in basically all areas of city operations. He hires, fires the staff in those various roles, puts the right people in the right places to conduct those day to day activities.”

The city manager is an integral part of city staff, Povlsen said.

“The city manager position is as important, if not more important, as mayor,” Povlsen said.

Experience and education are top considerations for city manager candidates.

“My goal is to see the search include a broad enough field that we feel the right person is being selected for the role of city administrator,” Rey said.

Rey said an experienced government official is important, and that individual should have people skills to relate not only to citizens in the community but the city staff.

Finucane said the city has several options as to where to look for candidates for the position.

“[We need to decide]: Do we get an assistant from a bigger town or a manager from a smaller town working his way up?” Finucane said. “Do we want someone who’s not been a city manager yet but been in a small town? We’ll be looking for education and experience.”