JOLIET – A recently re-elected Will County Board member is slated to become the board's chief of staff, a hire that is raising some eyebrows.
Ragan Freitag, R-Wilmington, was re-elected in November, but would leave the board if she becomes chief of staff.
Board Chairman James Moustis, R-Frankfort, said Freitag has tentatively accepted the position.
"I was looking for someone who understood local government. I was looking for someone with a law degree," Moustis said.
Freitag fits the bill on both counts.
But the fact that her departure after the election makes it possible for Republicans to name someone to fill her spot does raise a question of timing.
"Of course not," Moustis said when asked if the appointment of Freitag was contemplated before the election.
Previous Chief of Staff Bruce Friefeld retired in December. Moustis said Friefeld had talked about possible retirement before the election, but it was not a sure thing then.
Minority Leader Herb Brooks Jr., D-Joliet, offered a slightly different version of events, saying Friefeld's departure was known before the election.
"We did know that Bruce was retiring," Brooks said. "After the election, when Ragan ... won, we didn't know who was being considered [for the job]."
Brooks said Moustis told fellow board members at a leadership meeting in December that "persons" were being considered for the job but did not mention names. Last week, Moustis told Brooks he wanted Freitag for the job, Brooks said.
Moustis controls the appointment as county board chairman.
Brooks described Freitag's selection as "kind of a surprise to us – a shocker – a sitting county board member who had just won re-election."
Freitag did not return calls for comment Monday.
Brooks described her as "a well-accomplished attorney" and qualified for the job, but he questioned where her loyalties will be.
"I guess the suspicion in our caucus is, can you be fair with all 26 [board members]?" Brooks said. "I guess the suspicion is how you can be fair to our side?"
Freitag is a member of the law firm of Kavanagh, Grumley & Gorbold, which represents the Forest Preserve District of Will County.
County Board spokesman Gary Mack said Freitag's firm recently learned she was considering leaving to become chief of staff. Mack said Freitag's acceptance of the position is tentative because she has to work out her transition away from the firm.