Joliet plans to approve new city manager Tuesday
BY BOB OKON firstname.lastname@example.org October 4, 2013 5:55PM
Former Park Ridge City Manager Jim Hock is expected to be named Joliet's city manager on Tuedsay, Oct.7, 2013 | File Photo
The Joliet City Council is expected to vote on whether Jim Hock is its new city manager at a meeting on Tuesday.
The city has scheduled a special council meeting for 6 p.m. Tuesday. The agenda includes a closed session to be followed by appointment of the city manager and approval
of his employment contract.
Updated: November 7, 2013 6:46AM
Jim Hock likely is to be voted in Tuesday as the new city manager in Joliet, taking the same position he held before being fired in Park Ridge last year.
Joliet City Council members are taking Hock’s firing in stride, dismissing it as the kind of political peril that often comes with the job of being the top executive at a workplace overseen by elected officials.
“In my experience over the years, in school districts and park districts and city government, people in a position like that can be asked to leave because of a change in politics,” Councilman Michael Turk said.
Turk would not talk about Hock specifically, sticking to a position that the new manager should not be identified until the city has a signed contract. But Hock’s selection has been confirmed by sources, and some council members addressed the Park Ridge situation more specifically.
“His termination was politics as usual in Illinois,” said Councilman Larry Hug, emphasizing that he was talking about Hock as one of three finalists for the job and not as the guy who got it.
Hug said of the 64 applicants for the job, nearly 40 had previous experience as city managers, and for half of those that included being fired at some point.
Hock’s fate in Park Ridge does reflect the way that elections can shake up municipal government.
He had been city manager in the northwest suburb for two years when the city council voted to renew his contract, according to newspaper accounts. But Mayor Dave Schmidt, no fan of Hock’s work, vetoed the contract renewal, one of about 50 vetoes that Schmidt said he has exercised as mayor.
Hock stayed on the job, however, and the city council overrode Schmidt’s veto two months before the April 2011 city election. That election changed the makeup of the city council, putting new aldermen in five of the seven wards. Hock stayed on the job another year before being fired in May 2012.
Schmidt described Hock as a “bureaucrat” who was “set in his ways as to how city management should operate and how city staff should interact with residents, and we never saw eye to eye on that.”
The mayor’s comments also reflected a tension between elected officials and a town’s staff that nearly always exists to some degree.
“It seemed from the very beginning that his style and the attitude he had was that the elected officials were subordinate to the staff and not the other way around,” Schmidt said.
Hock, contacted by email, would not discuss what happened in Park Ridge, saying his employment contract with the city included a termination clause, “which states neither party shall make any public statement, issue any press release or make any other communication intended to reach the general public which disparages, assigns fault or calls into question the good faith or goodwill of the other party.”
In November 2012, Hock went to work for the village of Carpentersville as community development director, a position that includes monitoring construction projects. He recently was in the middle of a controversy between the village and a leading businessman who wanted to pave a commercial driveway with bricks, a violation of the village code.
A September newspaper report of the incident said Hock and staff were ordered to attend in-house customer service training. But Hock’s boss, Village Manager J. Mark Rooney, said the newspaper report was incorrect.
Rooney said he and Hock talked about certain complaints about the community development department and decided that customer service training would be helpful for the staff.
Rooney’s description of Hock is much different from that of the Park Ridge mayor.
“He’s very reasoned, and he’s not impulsive at all,” Rooney said. “When there’s a problem, he knows you have to address the root cause and not just the symptom. He’s always willing to listen to both sides.”
Joliet has had only two city managers since 1987. John Mezera had the job for 21 years. He was followed in 2008 by Thomas Thanas, the current manager who resigned in May and agreed to stay on until his successor was chosen.
It’s not always like that, Councilman John Gerl said.
“City manager is a tough job,” Gerl said. “Sometimes it’s almost like being manager of a baseball team. You don’t fire the center fielder. When things aren’t going so great, the city manager takes some of the fallout.”