Candidates disagree on managing Montgomery : News : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
|Candidates disagree on managing Montgomery |
|Some support hiring administrator, others back more board involvement|
|by John Etheredge|
Candidates for the Montgomery Village Board in the April 9 election have starkly different positions on how they see the role of the board and whether or not the village needs to hire an administrator or manager.
Six of the eight candidates seeking election to three open seats expressed their views during a public forum held before a full house last Thursday evening at village hall.
Participating in the Greater Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce-sponsored event were incumbent board member Denny Lee and five challengers: Steve Jungermann, Colleen Nedrow, Ben Brzoska, Joshua Salisbury and Greg Nelson.
Another incumbent, Andy Kaczmarek, and another challenger Theresa Sperling, did not attend the forum.
Sperling sent a letter explaining her absence and stating the reasons she is seeking election to the board.
The village's finance director, Jeff Zoephel, has been serving as the village's acting administrator since last spring, shortly after the board voted 4-2 to approve a resignation agreement with Anne Marie Gaura, who had served as village manager since 2001.
Since Gaura was in the third year of a four-year contract, the village was still obligated to pay her full salary and benefits through last month at a total cost of $134,998, according to information provided by Zoephel.
The village has had an administrator managing the daily affairs of the village-as directed by the board-since a prior board voted to create the position in 1988.
Jungermann said he absolutely supports the hiring of an administrator to manage the day-to-day operations of the village.
"Trustees are elected to dictate policy. They are not elected to micromanage the day-to-day activity of the village," Jungermann said. "It is ludicrous to think we are going to harken back to the day when we had a village of 5,000 people and each trustee is going to oversee a department. It breeds the possibility for corruption and favoritism and it has no place in the village."
Lee said he believes the village needs a strong administrator because board members do not, for example, have the expertise to oversee the management of the village's police and public works departments.
"That's why we need a strong administrator to carry out the board's policies and move them forward," Lee said.
Brzoska said he also believes the village needs an administrator to oversee the village's other department heads.
However, he continued, "I don't think we need to overpay for an administrator like we have in the past. But I do think one is needed."
Brzoska added, "The department heads should be held responsible for their departments, the hiring and firing. Making day-to-day decisions, but someone needs to oversee that."
Salisbury said he believes the village "really needs to be careful" to find the "right person for the job" of administrator.
"I still feel if we find the right person, and they are qualified, yes, let them oversee the daily operations but that person should still be responsible for reporting to the trustees and the trustees should have a say in what the department heads are doing since we are the ones who are elected by the residents," Salisbury said.
In stating her opposition to hiring an administrator, Nedrow said she thought the word micromanage went out in the 1980s.
Referring to the position, she said, "I think it is a glorified secretary and it's not really needed. With our elected trustees it is our job to take care of the city, not a secretary's job or a village administrator's job. I feel it is an extra expense that is not necessary."
Nelson said he "kind of concurs with Nedrow" and the village does not need "that $150,000 expense" for an administrator.
"We have really good, solid department heads," Nelson said, adding, "I own three businesses and if I didn't have good department heads, I would be out of business. We don't need an administrator to administer policy because policy has already been written. Our department heads should know that policy and if they don't, get a new department head."
Nelson added, "We wasted for 10 years, $150,000 a year. That person built a giant building we really didn't need. We overspent and we're all going to pay for it for 30 years."
chamber, MEDC roles
The candidates also expressed differing views on the role of the Greater Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce and Montgomery Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) play in the community.
The Montgomery Chamber is a private organization funded by member dues, while the MEDC was organized at the direction of the board by village staff a decade ago and is funded by the village and participating businesses.
Salisbury said he believes the chamber and MEDC "are doing the best job they can trying to attract new businesses to the community."
However, he added, "I still feel it our responsibility as trustees to make Montgomery as marketable as we can."
Salisbury said he believes the village should work with the MEDC but does not believe the organization should be "as closely as involved with our village government."
Nedrow said she believes the chamber and MEDC are "only doing what they are capable of doing with the limited resources" they have.
"I believe they are working as hard as they can but, again, I don't believe we are giving them the support that we can to grow our businesses in the area," Nedrow said.
Nelson said he and his wife along with Lee helped organize the chamber several years ago.
He also said he believes the MEDC "does a great job" but added, "We need to get tighter. We need to get so we know what the right and the left and that other hand we call the village know what's going on. There is a disjoint somewhere and until that is homogenous we're spinning our wheels."
Nelson added that there is probably a reason why the board recently rejected a request from the MEDC for $20,000 in additional funding. The agency made the request in order to boost its marketing efforts.
"We need business people to do business studies. That's it in a nutshell. Let's get the business community behind things and get some more thought and the trustees involved a little bit. Set them all down in a room and bang out some information. Let's work together because right now it is disjointed. I don't think there is a flow to it and until you get that rhythm there we're spinning our wheels," Nelson said.
Jungermann said the role of the chamber and the MEDC are to bring development opportunities to the village, serve as ambassadors for the village and show the village in a positive light with other business entities.
Jungermann said he supports increased funding for the MEDC.
"We need to create more economic development opportunities and the way to do that is to increase funding and working closely with the MEDC and chamber of commerce," he said.
Lee said he believes the village has worked with the chamber and noted that the village now provides office space for the agency at village hall.
Lee added that he does not believe the village can provide the types of economic development services for less than the $55,000 it now pays in annual member dues to the MEDC.
"It's that simple," he said.
Lee noted that the Village of Oswego cancelled its funding for the Oswego Economic Development Corporation and set up its own economic development department early last year.
He said Oswego is now paying more for economic development services than it did as an OEDC member and recently hired its second director for its in-house economic development department.
The salary alone for Oswego's economic director is $94,000, Lee said.
"It's not working out well (for Oswego)," Lee said.
Brzoska said he believes the chamber and the MEDC are doing a good job to "promote the village in a positive light."
He added he is "not opposed" to assist in funding the MEDC, but "also wants to see some results."
Brzoska said he believes the MEDC could do more on social media.
"I know the MEDC has a Facebook page, but I do not see them promoting the village a lot on the page," he said.