Will Interim ACM Create New City Manager Paradigm?


A little over four years ago, then-mayor Howard Frimark welcomed new city manager Jim Hock by announcing that Hock wasn’t Frimark’s first choice.  In retrospect, that might have been one of the few things Frimark actually got right as mayor – even if most of us didn’t realize it at the time. 

By contrast, Monday night current Mayor Dave Schmidt got his first choice for interim Acting City Manager.  Well, maybe not quite his first choice – because Schmidt and a majority of aldermen reportedly were ready to offer the post to Finance Director Alison Stutts before a consensus was reached that the Finance Department needed her services more than did the city manager’s office.

But once the position was publicly advertised and resumes of 12 applicants were received and reviewed, Shawn Hamilton became Schmidt’s top choice.  And he was approved at Monday night’s “special” Council meeting, after a lengthy closed session, by a vote of 5 (Alds. Sweeney, DiPietro, Smith, Knight and Mazzuca) to 2 (Alds. Raspanti and Maloney).

Hamilton, an interim choice hired under a contract that extends only through this coming April, might be considered a high-risk, high-reward selection. 

The high-risk part comes from the fact that he has less than a year of public-sector experience under his belt, as Grundy County Administrator running an annual budget of only $14 million – less than a quarter the size of Park Ridge’s.  For those of you who subscribe to the theory that top-level public sector positions must be filled by career bureaucrats, Hamilton is clearly not your man.

But as we often have argued, we think that such a bureaucrat-centric theory is largely responsible for the widespread (although not without significant exceptions) mediocrity that afflicts government service today, driving up the cost to the taxpayers without commensurate increases in service.

Hamilton’s resume reflects a varied background in banking and management consulting that should come in handy in the not-so-brave new world of municipal government, where economic and personnel issues have assumed increasingly prominent, if not dominant, roles.  And his 10+ years of service as an elected member of the Coal City School Board suggests that he will have a better understanding than his predecessors of the mindset and concerns of the elected officials arrayed around The Horseshoe.

This creates the opportunity for a new paradigm for how the City is managed and City services administered.  That’s the potentially high-reward part of the equation.  And given the fact that Hamilton’s appointment is only for 9 months, we have almost-laboratory quality conditions for conducting this kind of private-to-public-sector experiment. 

If Hamilton is up to the challenge – as the mayor and 5 alderman appear to believe he is – the City will have 9 months of solid ACM service and a real-time audition for the permanent city manager position in which Hamilton has expressed interest.  If not, the City will have nine months to conduct a more thorough and deliberate search for a permanent replacement for the departed Hock and Juliana Maller.

Under these circumstances, the “no” votes on Hamilton’s appointment by Alds. Raspanti and Maloney are both noteworthy and instructive. 

Both of them professed unhappiness with the selection process – especially with what they viewed as a too-small pool of candidates.  And we would agree with them …IF this had been the hiring process for a permanent city manager, or if the City was given more time than the approximately one-month fire drill that resulted from Maller’s announcing her departure for scenic Hanover Park on July 5, a month before her last day as Park Ridge ACM.

According to articles appearing in this week’s Park Ridge Herald-Advocate and Park Ridge Journal, Raspanti “would have liked to have seen [the City] get 100 resumes and really broaden the search,” while Maloney complained about the Council’s doing nothing about finding a new permanent city manager after it terminated Hock back on May 4th.

We can’t find any record of how many resumes the City received when it used a professional search firm to conduct the “nation-wide” hunt that spirited Hock away from the wolverines in Michigan.  Both Raspanti and Maloney voted to sack him in May – without either of them clamoring at that time for the immediate commencement of an interview and hiring process for his replacement.  And as best as we can tell, neither of them started beating the drum for an expedited comprehensive search process until now.

But we’ll take their words and their motives at face value, while offering the mayor and the rest of the Council the following bit of advice: No matter how much you guys may like Hamilton and think he might fill the bill for the permanent slot, begin a search process for the permanent slot now.

And to ensure that process is as good as it can be, we suggest that Schmidt and the Council deputize Raspanti and Maloney to run it.

Let the quest for 100 resumes begin! 

To read or post comments, click on title.

19 comments so far

I didn’t realize the City didn’t immediately start searching for a replacement for Hock after his termination. Talk about a “head in the sand” mentality!

I agree that Mr. Hamilton’s contract provides the perfect “audition.” But hopefully the council won’t drag their feet on searching for a backup rather than hope he works out, or we could very well be right back at square one come next May.

Simply hoping that things somehow work out has been the mantra for far too long at City Hall.

EDITOR’S NOTE: One of the reasons the City deferred replacing Hock was in order to ameliorate the cost of having to pay Hock the $130,000 of severance benefits Alds. Sweeney and DiPietro helped award him in December 2010, and then helped lock in by joining the rest of their previous Council in over-riding Mayor Schmidt’s veto of that severance-providing contract on February 7, 2011.

When you lock in bad decisions, “hoping that things somehow work out” is often all you’re left with.

Something seems to be getting lost in the shuffle in the reporting and commenting on this matter.

When Hock was fired, the plan, unanimously approved by the Council (at least there was no spoken opposition), was to have the Deputy City Manager serve as Acting City Manager for long enough to offset the budgetary hit caused by Hock’s severance payment, roughly 7-8 months. Therefore, there was no need to rush the process of hiring a permanent manager. That all changed when Ms. Maller announced a little over three weeks ago that she was leaving as of August 10.

There is one other thing that has not been mentioned that was thought of and acted on a month ago. We cannot begin the process of finding a permanent city manager until we resolve whether to maintain our residency requirement. There are good arguments on both siodes. But until it is settled, we cannot advertise for the position because that is a basic job requirement.

That is why I had it added to the Committee agenda and we started discussions. We need to decide it soon so we can move on to the next step.

During the closed session on Monday night, the Council discussed at length how long a new Acting City Manager should be in place. The Council majority decided, and I agree, that hiring a permanent manager to start in January, right at the beginning of the budget process, did not make sense.

I like the idea of a city manager, even an acting one, with more private sector than public sector experience. I hope Mr. Hamilton works out well, both for Park Ridge and for the rest of the state’s municipalities who might view his success as a game-changer.

Whether he works out or not, however, the mayor and council deserve credit for the outside-the-box effort.

EDITOR’S NOTE: After a decade of same old same old that just piled up the debt while raising taxes for less services, we think it’s definitely worth a try.

That’s revisionist history Mayor Dave.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Prove it, Slick.

Mayor Dave seems to getting away from the Dean Wormer concern of going through life “fat, drunk and stupid” and heading towards the Mayor Daley way of “vote my way or the high way.” Hard to say which is worse?

EDITOR’S NOTE: Such keen insight and depth of analysis! We’re suprised you left out “doody-head.”

The last guy was from Michigan and you have written here that the previous one was from Wisconsin. I never got the sense that either of them did a particularly good job, and I remember them as career public secotr guys.

I share the view of 6:20 and wish Mr. Hamilton well. Good job, mayor and aldermen.

The city government needs to decide not only on the residency requirement but on what positions belong in the budget. For example, do we need both a city manager and a deputy city manager?

EDITOR’S NOTE: That’s correct, FWT. And we don’t recall either Ald. Raspanti or Ald. Maloney calling for that issue to be added to Ald. DiPietro’s Policies & Regulations COW agenda since they all voted to launch Hock in May.

Agree with anon 9:56p….PR city gov has turned into more of a dictatorship than than a true democracy…too bad I thought mayor dave had potential to be something different….

EDITOR’S NOTE: Sorry, Zippy, but anybody who can compare the current Park Ridge City government to a “dictatorship” probably needs a full-time attendant.

Where’s this view of “dictatorship” coming from? What did the rest of us miss?? The Mayor AND the Aldermen apparently spent +4 hours deciding on the appointment. If that suggests dictatorship I think you need to revisit the meaning of the word/concept.

It might seem those of you suggesting this are spending far too much time on Franklin Ramirez’s JOIN FRANKLIN RAMIREZ facebook page! And you certainly aren’t paying attention to how the ordinance about naming an Acting or Permanent City Manager works.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Likely true. By the way, does anybody know whether Franklin is packing up his carpetbag and moving from the 7th Ward up to the 2nd Ward in a bid to succeed Richie D?

Looks Like Ramirez is “backing Larry Ryles,” thank goodness, instead of running for mayor. His FB page says he considering another run at alderman, but he doesn’t mention a ward.

He also appears to regard Shawn Hamilton’s hiring with much skepticism, seemingly because of his lack of public sector/government experience.

I’d really like to know exactly what the anti-Schmidt faction has against him (Schmidt, not Hamilton) and what exactly they propose that might be different and/or better. So far I’ve heard nothing other than vague negative campaigning.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Our take on it is that Schmidt: (a) is not part of the old social club that the now-defunct Homeowners Party became after Marty Butler’s demise, so those old HOs don’t like him; (b) he’s not the go-along-to-get-along type, so those g-a-t-g-a folks don’t like him; (c) he’s not looking to line his own pockets, so the folks who are don’t like or trust him; and (d) he actually walks the fiscal conservative talk, which ticks off those public officials who only talk the talk, as well as those folks (like at Center of Concern, Taste Inc. and others) who, after years of feeding at the public trough, have come to expect continued handouts from the taxpayers through complicit elected officials.

Funny, reasons b, c and d are all the reasons why I support Schmidt. I guess I wouldn’t fit in with either the old HOs or the g-a-t-g-a group. Not that I’d want to.

Now the next question for me is how far-reaching is the influence of these anti-Schmidt people? Could Ryles truly give Schmidt a run for his money?

EDITOR’S NOTE: Remember “Dewey Defeats Truman”? Schmidt has a record like no other mayor since at least Marty Butler. If people like it, they should vote for him; if not, they should vote for his opponent(s).

Mayor Schmidt has stood in the wind a lot during this term. Standing in the wind is tiring, especially when it seems that no good deed in government goes unpunished. I hope that he will run again.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Standing in the wind is a good metaphor, which is why our favorite quote in that same vein is Jefferson’s: “In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock.”

Franklin can move to and run from the 2nd Ward but he will have opposition.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We love the smell of contested elections in the morning. They smell like…democracy.

Interesting you to Ramirez a carpetbagger …. The term referred to the observation that [Conferderate Southerns moving north] newcomers tended to carry “carpet bags,” a common form of luggage at the time (sturdy and made from used carpet). It was used as a derogatory term, suggesting opportunism and exploitation by the outsiders. …they are said to have politically manipulated and controlled former Confederate states for varying periods for their own financial and power gains. In sum, carpetbaggers were seen as insidious and with questionable objectives meddling in local politics, etc.

That’s funny. Franklin Ramirez has been engaged in this town for over 15 years. If he does decided to “pack up his carpetbag” and run in the 2nd ward I’d support him. Sean O’leary has been here since 2011 …. Talk about a carpetbagger.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Franklin Ramirez is a Park Ridge “Southern” (7th Ward) who ran for 7th Ward alderman and lost to Marty Maloney in April 2011. Ramirez can’t run for 7th Ward alderman until Maloney’s current term expires in 2015. So if Ramirez moves north (to the 2nd Ward) to run for alderman in April 2013, that would seem to make him a…wait for it…carpetbagger! (Even if he takes his stuff in Samsonite luggage or Bekins boxes).

But if you have any information that supports your implied contention that Shawn O’Leary moved to Park Ridge so he could run for 2nd Ward alderman in 2013, please share it.

You made reference in a previous post that Ramirez lives at home still …. Nothing wrong with that especially in this economy. I remember his run and he had a great showing (even though he lost 2:1). “Carpetbagger” or not I applaud him for running again (if that’s what he plans to do). If he’s mobile and moves into the 2nd ward then I see nothing wrong with that …. Like you said …. Contested elections smell like democracy! Sweet sweet smell. All the best to Mr. Ramirez.

EDITOR’S NOTE: There’s nothing wrong with living at home (or, a/k/a, at parents’ home). But if you think there’s nothing wrong with Ramirez carpetbagging it from the south to the north of Park Ridge just to run for alderman, Zippy, why are you so hostile to O’Leary’s running for alderman after moving to Park Ridge?

The way I read it, you’re the one who’s being hostile. Saying Ramirez is a carpetbagger …. I’m merely stating, from Sean O’leary’s page, that’s he’s only been here since 2011. Just a fact …. Comparing the two with how long they have lived in Park Ridge.

Let’s wait and see the differences between their campaigns before you preach anymore.

EDITOR’S NOTE: “Comparing the two with how long they have lived in Park Ridge” has NOTHING to do with whether or not either one of them is a “carpetbagger”: moving from one ward – where you can’t run again for another 2 years – to a different ward whose aldermanic seat is up this election cycle, does.

But your closing comment makes it sounds like you know Ramirez already has his “carpetbag” packed. We’ll look forward to a good race between him and O’Leary, assuming such a race occurs.

It might seem those of you suggesting this are spending far too much time on Franklin Ramirez’s JOIN FRANKLIN RAMIREZ facebook page! … Looks Like Ramirez is “backing Larry Ryles,” thank goodness, instead of running for mayor. … By the way, does anybody know whether Franklin is packing up his carpetbag and moving from the 7th Ward up to the 2nd Ward in a bid to succeed Richie D?

I have been reading this blog for a little while and have seen Franklin Ramirez’s name in here quite a bit and I have to agree it’s all been “hostile.” I have been to his Facebook page because you posted about it and all he does is post about whats’s political around town (similar to you posting your own comments on this page, but just a different platform). I see nothing wrong with Mr. Ramirez, his Facebook or his ambitions to run for Alderman? Why wouldn’t he make a good alderman? Are people threatened by him? What about Mr. Ramirez do people just not like? I do not know him, but I give him credit for doing what he is doing – even if that is “regurgitating” news from the local papers; I do not subscribe to either the Herald-Advocate or the Journal. He at least gives me hope that young people are getting involved in their community.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Zippy, your multiple personalities are showing. If you want to be treated as three different people, start signing your comments “Moe,” “Larry” or “Curly.”

The arrogance you display is deplorable. I am not the person you are referring to by any means!! I read this blog and happen to make a comment based of what someone else, including yourself, wrote and you have the nerve to assume. I am sorry, Mr. Trizna, but you are wrong, crude and arrogant. You have the freedom to write what you will, but I hope people do not take you seriously.

By the way, you never answered my questions. Seems as though people are threatened by Mr. Ramirez after-all … maybe he would be a better alderman/mayor then your pocket-pal, Schmidt.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Nice try, Slick, but either you’ve got multiple personalities or somebody (Moe? Larry? Curly?) commandeered your computer – because four comments to this post or Wednesday’s post have all come from the same computer in the past few hours.

As for your questions: (a) the voters of the 7th Ward decided overwhelmingly that he wouldn’t make a good alderman – or at least not as good a one as Marty Maloney; (b) we can’t imagine anybody being “threatened” by him; (c) maybe his proclaiming himself a “community and youth activist” but leaving out “homeroom rep.”?

Just to clear up any confusion: I did not move to Park Ridge to run for alderman. A simple application of Occam’s Razor should help demonstrate that. What’s more likely: I would move my family to Park Ridge and build a new home in the city (while selling my condo in the city at a loss) so that I could run for an alderman’s seat opening up 2+ year’s later, or that I wanted my young family benefit from a safe suburban community with good schools and proximity and easy transportation access to my place of employment?

I’m interested in running for alderman because I have spent my career working with and studying cities and other municipal entities around the country. I feel I have a strong grasp of local government finance and insights that can help the city navigate challenges such as failure of the Uptown TIF to live up to projections, the need to invest in infrastructure (including sewer projects), preservation of the city’s bond rating (presently under review by Moody’s, a company I once worked for and still maintain strong relationships with), and other challenges that are just over the horizon (for example, new GASB pension accounting standards may well mean higher annual contributions to our pension plans in a few years).

I have yet to meet Franklin Ramirez and hope to do so soon. I commend his history of volunteerism and activism within the city. I don’t intend to quarrel over which one of us is a bigger carpetbagger – that seems trivial and a distraction from the far more important issues facing the city.

Anyone that wishes to know more about me need only call or email; I am more than willing to talk (and listen).


EDITOR’S NOTE: Occam’s Razor-sharp, Mr. O’Leary. We look forward to your campaign.

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