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City manager decision unsettled

Mayor and City Council members give mixed reports on what’s next

What Joliet will do about the city manager’s job appears unsettled after the City Council discussed it both in public and in a closed session Tuesday.

Council member Bettye Gavin said she left a two-hour closed session with the impression that there was a consensus among council members to open the job to applicants.

“We are going to open up the process from the last I heard,” Gavin said Wednesday. “It will be an open process. I don’t know what the timetable will be.”

Apparently, it won’t be very soon because Mayor Bob O’Dekirk and others said no decision has been made on whether to advertise the job or give it to interim City Manager Martin Shanahan.

“I don’t think we’ve decided,” O’Dekirk said. “There’s no clear consensus. I think we’re going to discuss it again.”

O’Dekirk wants Shanahan promoted to city manager on a permanent basis.

Shanahan took over in October after former City Manager David Hales left, giving up a $215,000 salary after less than a year on the job.

Attempts to reach an agreement to give the job to Shanahan without opening the position to applicants fell short at the end of the council meeting Tuesday. The council then went into closed session to discuss the matter.

Some council members were reluctant to say whether any conclusion was reached in the closed session.

Council member Michael Turk said he favors posting the city manager job for applicants, but he believed the council was “going to have more discussion” on the matter.

“I think we’re going to look at the job description,” Turk said. “I think it’s a little bit outdated.”

The job description now requires a minimum of eight years of progressively responsible municipal government administrative experience. That could be viewed to exclude Shanahan, who came to Joliet as city attorney in 2014.

But the job description also allows for equivalent experience that provides the required skill for the job, and Shanahan advocates he already has proven his ability in two stints as interim city manager. He also filled in before Hales was hired.

“With all the important projects, it would be a complete distraction to change now,” council member Jan Quillman said Tuesday as she argued against posting the job for potential candidates. “We have the person sitting right here.”

Council member Larry Hug followed Quillman in promoting Shanahan for the job and accused those wanting to post the position for applicants of political motives.

Hug on Wednesday accused Gavin of “leaking” information from the closed session and said he has heard “from a number of sources that there’s several members of the council who have already picked the guy they want in there.”

Gavin said she did not know of any preselected candidates for the job.

“I don’t know what Larry Hug was talking about or who he was referring to,” she said. “He never would say.”

Council member Pat Mudron, who also favors opening the job to applicants, said he does not know what potential candidates Hug believes are being targeted.

“I don’t know what names he has,” Mudron said. “He thinks we have a name because he challenges everybody.”

Mudron said he has not talked to any potential city manager candidates and has no one specific in mind.

“I would like someone with experience that is young and up and coming and has creative ideas of what cities in 2030 will be,” he said.

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