From Lakewood Village President Paul Serwatka:
Newsletter – Reporting on 3 Important Issues
Continuing my report of our July 25th and August 8th board meetings, there are still several more items that I want to bring to your attention. As I stated previously, several of these items, I believe, are significant and I want to be sure they are given the attention, and detailed reporting that I believe they warrant.
This in mind, I will need to report on them over a short series of newsletters. I will follow-up with the others in the upcoming days.
Today, I want to touch on 3 Important Items.
Storm Water Task Force
I recently sent out notice to residents that I am working to re-instate Lakewood’s Storm Water Task Force, seeking residents with expertise in related fields, asking for their participation as we work with engineers and contractors to find real solutions to our sewer/storm water inadequacies.
You can read the Northwest Herald Coverage of our effort by clicking the link.
Legitimizing Lakewood’s Planning and Zoning Commission
In my early May 2017 Newsletter, (my first newsletter as our new village president) I spoke of the appointment of a new Chairman to Lakewood’s Planning and Zoning Commission, resident John O’Hara. As I stated then, this appointment was part-1 of a 2-part plan to bring a new level of legitimacy and professionalism to our Planning and Zoning Commission.
Why am I bolding the word “Commission”? (This is actually quite important.)
Commission vs Committee
It is statutorily mandated by the state of Illinois that our village maintain an independent Planning and Zoning Commission.
This Commission is to be comprised of up to 7 residents, independent of the board of trustees, who are appointed by the president and board of trustees and is intended to serve the following functions:
▪ Conduct Public Hearings
▪ Review evidence
▪ Make Findings of Facts
▪ Make recommendations to the village board of trustees
The Commission is intended to hold these hearings, examine evidence, determine facts and make these recommendations on a variety of issues including:
▪ Special land use requests
▪ Ordinance text or map amendment requests
▪ Plans for future development
▪ Set-back line amendments
▪ Subdivision requirements
▪ Site plan approvals
After holding a public hearing, reviewing evidence and establishing a Finding of Facts the Commission would then make a recommendation to the board of trustees to approve, or not to approve, one of the above listed issues.
In 2008, a Planning and Zoning Committee was created. This Committee was a distinct and separate entity from the statutorily mandated Planning and Zoning Commission. For the last 8 years, this Committee was comprised of the village president and two trustees selected by the village president.
This Committee essentially bypassed the statutorily mandated Commission.
This Committee, comprised of the president and two trustees, held its own hearings and made recommendations to themselves and fellow board members. (Worth noting that this Committee that was making these recommendations to themselves and other board members, already held three of the four votes necessary to approve or not approve any of the above listed issues.)
There are many, myself included, who believed that the existence of this Planning and Zoning Committee, if not grossly improper in its existence alone, certainly could be perceived as having an appearance of impropriety.
At our July 25th meeting, I proposed an ordinance disbanding this Planning and Zoning Committee, whereby all such future matters would only be heard, and recommendations made, by our statutorily mandated, independent Planning and Zoning Commission.
This ordinance was passed unanimously.
I believe that placing these important issues before an independent Planning and Zoning Commission of appointed residents, moving forward, will serve well to avoid the many costly and upsetting disputes that have taken place between residents and the village.
Re-Organization of Village Administration
(No More Village Manager, Deputy Manager and Finance Director positions)
In line with our goal to to streamline our administration for increased efficiencies and cost effectiveness, as well as to remove sole authority and power from one individual, as has been the case in recent years, the board has recently made a quite substantial transition.
Our village administration will, by ordinance, no longer have a Village Manager, or Finance Director position.
As I explained at our July 25th and August 8th meetings, we have created a new Chief Administrative Officer position which comprises/replaces what was formerly two positions.
– The Village Manager at $133,000 salary (as was proposed) plus a $30,000 pension/benefits package – for a total of $163,000.
– Finance Director at $115,000 salary plus a $30,000 pension/benefits package -for a total of $145,000.
The total cost to Lakewood taxpayers, for these two positions was over $300,000.
Furthermore, Lakewood’s Village Manager has historically come with a 4-year employment contract including a hefty severability clause which included a severance package of as much as 4-6 months of salary if employment is terminated.
With the salary for the new Chief Administrative Officer of $157,700 there is a tremendous cost savings to our village. But that isn’t even the best part.
This new Chief Administrative Officer position is an entirely “at will employment” with NO contract period and NO severability clause or severance package guarantees. Lakewood can terminate at anytime should they deem necessary.
This transition was a very strategic move.
The goal was to find a qualified candidate to perform both the managerial and accounting roles. At a minimum, we needed a CPA with high level managerial experience. Great emphasis was also placed on finding someone with more private sector experience and less of a municipal government “indoctrinated” mindset.
Julie Heather Meister’s credentials were more than impressive. Her extensive credentials along with her vast experience in Fortune 1000, NPO, and the ABA arenas, in my own very strong opinion, put her light-years ahead of her predecessors of the last decade.
To give an idea of the level of professionalism Lakewood is gaining, here are just some of Julie’s more pertinent credentials:
MBA—University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Kenan Flagler School of Business
PhD Coursework—Case Western Reserve University, Weatherhead School of Management
Fellow and Scholarship Recipient—Mandel Center for Not-for-Profit Managerial Leadership, Case-Western University
CPA—Certified Public Accountant, Licensed in Illinois
CIA—Certified Internal Auditor
CFE—Certified Fraud Examiner
PMP—Project Management Professional
Six Sigma Green Belt—American Society for Quality
CPIM—Certified in Production and Inventory Management
I am quite confident that these skills, along with the incredible work ethic that Julie Heather has already demonstrated will prove to be worth their weight in gold, in Lakewood.
The addition of Julie Heather Meister and the new position of Chief Administrative Officer to the Lakewood administration, along with the hiring of Michael Roth as Lakewood’s new Chief of Police, I believe, will catapult Lakewood into an arena of legitimate and efficient government that works to SERVE the residents, rather than the arena of municipal governments that seem to serve themselves.
As always, your thoughts, questions and concerns are always welcome and always valued.