ST. CHARLES – With several city employees recently retiring and taking positions with other municipalities, lots of new faces are now helping shape the future of St. Charles.
Since Mayor Ray Rogina was elected in the spring, the city’s administration has gone through many changes, and one department was even restructured recently. The vacated positions so far have been filled or temporarily filled internally by current staff members.
Mark Koenen, who previously served as director of public works, replaced Brian Townsend, who served as city administrator of St. Charles until August, when he took a new job as Schaumburg’s village manager in August.
Koenen was public works director for 23 years before changing his job title. He was replaced by Peter Suhr, formerly the city’s assistant public works director, who is filling the position as interim director.
Koenen is now at the helm of hiring the city’s employees, which so far this year has included an interim police chief and two economic development positions.
“We need to fill these positions when people leave. That’s just a given,” Koenen said. “It also brings new approaches and fresh blood into the organization, which is always good.”
The shakeup in city employment started earlier than Townsend’s departure. The city’s Economic Development Department changed dramatically months after Economic Development Coordinator Michael Mertes left his job for a position in Arlington Heights in July. Shortly after, Economic Development Director Chris Aiston announced his retirement in July. Aiston now works in Batavia.
The positions weren’t filled until earlier this month, when city administration announced that the Economic Development Department would be restructured. Rita Tungare, who was director of St. Charles Community Development, recently was named to a newly created position as director of Community and Economic Development.
The new position combines two departments together under one director, saving the city some money, said Mayor Ray Rogina, who also is new to his post after being elected in April. He estimated that the reorganization will save, on a conservative estimate, about $100,000 a year because one high-paying position was eliminated.
But that’s not the only benefit, he said.
“With that [merger], we’ve created a certain amount of synergy. They complement each other in assisting current corporate citizens, as well as working with new businesses in St. Charles,” Koenen said. “It’s not unusual for a new business to come into town and talk to both the economic and community development departments for different reasons. Having them in one department, we best serve those business interests by having everyone in one location. It’s one-stop shopping.”
Rogina said the city administration didn’t rush to fill those vacated positions and waited for about seven months before acting on any changes. However, he said between Tungare and Karla McCleary, senior administrative assistant for the department, a lot had been accomplished in that time.
“They were able to initiate the [Charlestowne Mall sale], get First Street in its proposed stages and, not to mention, lifting the retail overlay downtown,” he said.
The Charlestowne Mall went under contract to be sold in August; the city granted developers a firm extension to get the First Street development project started in April; and the City Council also voted recently to lift certain requirements that prevented non-retail businesses from locating to the downtown area.
The city’s administration continues to search for an economic development manager, who would work directly under the community and economic development director.
The St. Charles Fire Department also has seen some changes since former Chief Patrick Mullen retired in November of 2012. Assistant Fire Chief Joe Schelstreet, who served as interim chief, officially filled the position as fire chief in June of 2013.
Last week, city officials announced that longtime police officer Steven Huffman would become the interim St. Charles police chief. The post recently became vacant when outgoing Chief Jim Lamkin announced that he would end his employment with the city to serve as Schaumburg’s police chief. Huffman was one of two deputy chiefs with the St. Charles Police Department who were interviewed for the position.
“The process has been good,” Rogina said about filling that position. “I think we kind of followed the same footsteps as the public works director for the interim basis and took somebody internal. It’s the council’s wishes that we’re going to do a complete search.”