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Officials debate job description

Proposal keeps power vested in the council, not city administrator

Published: Thursday, June 27, 2013 1:15 a.m. CDT

DIXON – A city administrator job description introduced to the City Council during a plan session Wednesday gives commissioners, not the administrator, final authority in departmental matters.

Police Chief Danny Langloss, appointed special assistant to the council, made his recommendations after studying 8 to 10 other communities in depth, including East Peoria, which also has a commission form of government.

The item was only up for discussion, and still remains a work in progress, Langloss said.

The council plans to hold another work session to update the proposal.

After it was revealed former public works director Shawn Ortgiesen misused city-issued credit cards for personal items and resigned, the council decided to hire an administrator to oversee all its departments.

Langloss recommended a chain of command that puts the administrator in charge of overseeing day-to-day operations and carrying out the vision of commissioners.

He said it was important the chain of command be clear.

In it, the final authority remains with commissioners.

“The council drives everything,” Langloss said. “Each of you will define the roles.”

Recommended duties for the administrator included executing city ordinances, policies, programs and strategic plans, as well as working on public relations, economic development and human resources.

An administrator would work through a budget with the finance director, council members and city staff, the proposal said.

Also, adherence to a code of ethics adopted by the Illinois County/City Management Association was noted as important.

Commissioner Dennis Considine was happy to see that no one individual had too much power in the proposal. He said that it was important the council act quickly, and that he preferred the administrator be required to live in Dixon.

Most people in Dixon still seem to be in favor of retaining the commission form of government, he added.

Commissioner Jeff Kuhn, on the other hand, questioned whether an administrator should be given the power to oversee day-to-day operations.

Kuhn said he has conversations with supervisors in his designated departments daily about what is done and what needs to be done.

“People can call their commissioner now, and have him or her take care of it,” Kuhn said. “I think that is working well right now. I think an administrator could be rather cumbersome.”

Ideally, commissioners would let the department supervisor handle the day-to-day operations with the oversight of the administrator, Langloss said.

Commissioners would focus more on setting policy and goals, but still have as much conversation as they like with department supervisors and the administrator about day-to-day operations, he said.

“The council will set the goals, and the administrator will see that those goals are met,” Langloss said.

Commissioner Colleen Brechon asked if the city is asking too much of the position and wondered if an administrator would get in the way of an already efficient system.

Langloss said 90 percent of governments with an administrator use this kind of system and have reported success with it.

Mayor Jim Burke spoke favorably of the proposal, saying the citizens have spoken about the need for an administrator. He did warn that he did not want commissioners to become complacent once an administrator is hired.

Commissioner David Blackburn also is business manager for the school district, which has a superintendent as its administrator. He said the post is a much-needed resource to carry out the council’s vision, and noted how much the city misses Ortgiesen’s expertise.

Langloss started the presentation by explaining the difference between a public works director and a city administrator.

“A public works director is seen as a coordinator and an administrator is more of a supervisor,” Langloss said. “Plus, an administrator is able to approach things from more of a financial expertise.”

Blackburn said he favored hiring an interim until after the November 2014 election, when citizens could adopt a new form of government.

Langloss said the council will work to finalize a job description, then the city can start the recruiting process, which could go into October.

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