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Dixon's first city administrator: Taking job ‘worth the risk’

Published: Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2013 1:15 a.m. CST • Updated: Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2013 1:42 p.m. CST

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DIXON – Dixon’s first city administrator is tied to a former city employee. Not by name or actions, but by how he got to Dixon and the office where he works, now that he’s here.

David Nord was hired by the Dixon City Council during a special meeting Nov. 12. The next day was his first on the job, when he moved into the office once occupied by then-City Comptroller Rita Crundwell.

Crundwell’s 2012 arrest for stealing nearly $54 million from the city during 2 decades ultimately led to the City Council’s decision to hire a city administrator.

Enter David Nord, who was born and raised in Garden Prairie, a small town less than 10 miles east of Belvidere. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Augustana College and a master’s degree from Northern Illinois University.

“In an awkward way, Dixon has done a service to other small towns,” Nord said.

After Crundwell’s arrest, Illinois towns started to ask questions about their bookkeeping, he said, and many made appropriate changes.

Nord spent 25 years as the village administrator in Cherry Valley, a suburb of Rockford, where he started as an intern while a student at NIU, he said. He joined the city full time after earning his master’s and became its first village administrator.

Cherry Valley, which had a population of about 900 at the time, hired him because village officials saw what tasks they could put on him and the value of having that position, he said. The village decided to keep that job after his departure and is seeking a successor.

He didn’t expect to be there for 25 years, he added, but had no hesitation taking it when offered.

When Nord left, Cherry Valley’s population was more than 3,100. He recognized the risk of moving on from a village he knew well to a city that could change its form of government and have a new City Council, which could decide to not rehire him.

“I felt it was worth the risk,” Nord said. “This community has a lot going for it. I want to be part of it.”

Among the positive Dixon aspects are the riverfront and the downtown TIF district, Nord said. He has sensed a City Hall that is ready to move forward and already has good lines of communication.

“I’m thankful for the fact that some of the things Dixon is doing already, I won’t have to do,” he said in talking about department heads discussing projects so nobody is “caught off guard.”

According to his contract, Nord has until Jan. 1, 2016, to establish his principal residence in Dixon’s city limits. He said he will likely wait until after the April 2015 city election to buy a home in Dixon and move.

During the November 2014 election, Dixon residents will have the chance to change the city’s form of government from the current commission form to a managerial form.

As a city administrator, Nord said, it’s not his job to advocate, either way, for an election item. And with City Council members having no unanimous position on the potential change, he declined to take a side on the issue.

“It’s ultimately on the city voters on what happens,” Nord said. “I’ll live and die by that decision.”

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