GENEVA – Chris Lauzen believes Kane County faces a number of problems.
Lauzen, County Board chairman, often will steer discussions of county issues to his concerns over the county’s high home foreclosure rate and unemployment levels.
As a candidate in 2012, Lauzen also spent time arguing against what he considered the county’s “culture of corruption,” which he said interfered with the local government’s ability to address issues facing its residents.
But, as an elected official in Kane County, Lauzen, an Aurora Republican and former state senator, said he believes the county government’s culture can change – and it can do so without major staffing shake-ups within the county departments that Lauzen oversees.
“The culture of county government is changing, and will reflect three priorities,” Lauzen said. “Living within our means, no ‘pay-to-play’ behavior and instituting best management practices.
“Those are the things that matter to the taxpayers, and the staff we have in place is highly competent and able to accomplish those goals.”
In the November election, Lauzen, eight County Board members, a circuit court clerk, an auditor and a coroner were swept into office, with many promising to change county government.
But since taking office about two months ago, officials have indicated that anyone believing those changes would translate into new names and faces in the ranks of the county government’s employed staff should look elsewhere – even though most of those now in positions of leadership within the county staff were either employed or promoted under previous county administrations.
Lauzen and Tom Hartwell, Kane County circuit court clerk, indicated they will not make major changes among staff, beyond simple reorganizations or hiring to fill vacancies that have occurred as the result of resignations or retirements.
Lauzen said he is seeking to hire a finance director to fill a position that has remained vacant since former Kane County Finance Director Cheryl Pattelli resigned to take a similar position in Boulder, Colo.
Lauzen also seeks to hire a director of Kane County Animal Control to fill a vacancy open since early 2012.
But any big changes appear to come in the form of processes and policies, rather than people.
Hartwell said he believes longtime government employees can embrace new ways of doing things if they are given the right cues from their elected leaders.
Hartwell said he intends to “reorganize” the processes in the office, but is focusing most of his efforts on modernizing the circuit clerk’s office’s technology. And Lauzen said his efforts would be focused on his core priority of holding the line on the county’s property tax levy at all costs.
He said that task may include “streamlining” operations and increasing efficiency, where he believes such goals may be needed.
But Lauzen said discussing staff would distract from what he believes are the problems in the county.
“I am going to change things, and we will be doing things a bit differently,” Lauzen said. “But in getting to know the staff, I’ve found they are pleasant people, and they’re smart and dedicated to our constituents.
“Really, what I’m concentrating on right now is doing what it would take to make sure we’re meeting the challenges, as a [County] Board, that need to be met.”