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Local Editorials

City manager hire key to Streator’s future

THE ISSUE: Streator city manager's last day is set

OUR VIEW: City Council faces critical task in next hire

The Streator City Council will make a decision within the next couple of months that will shape how effectively the city operates.

City Manager Scot Wrighton will resign Monday, March 18, to take a position as Decatur's city manager, opening up Streator's top administration role.

In the managerial form of government, hiring a city manager is the most important task a City Council faces. The council sets policies and goals, and it's up to the manager to see them through. The two have to work not only well together, but also the manager must have the skillset to see elected officials' goals to fruition.

Hiring the wrong person can be costly in more ways than one.

For instance, ineffectiveness could stall the progress of the council. While the council has the ability to fire the city manager, they typically negotiate a buyout in their contract for early termination.

While that's the case, the majority of this council, in particular, was involved in the latest transition four years ago when Wrighton was hired.

The council wants to go with the same process. Instead of taking in resumes, the council will utilize the professional network of Wrighton, former Normal City Manager Mark Peterson and the city's attorney Sheryl Churney, and her firm Klein, Thorpe & Jenkins, to recruit a qualified candidate.

The process isn't all that different from what fans of the NFL see when teams seek out new coaches. Those who work in the business know who the best, up-and-coming candidates are, and they seek out a specific skillset.

The advantage of this route is it can save in advertising or recruitment costs, as well as limit the risks by bringing in a known candidate. A possible disadvantage is overlooking a qualified candidate, but the council will not say no to unsolicited resumes. They received a couple in the last transition.

Council members noted they will be looking for integrity, experience, strong communication skills and someone who has worked in Illinois with issues specific to municipalities in the state, according to Mayor Jimmie Lansford.

They believe the city is on the right track and are seeking a candidate to keep the momentum, Lansford said.

Now is the time for voters to weigh in with their council members regarding what they may also want in a city manager candidate.

Economic development, addressing public safety pensions, property tax rates, looking for new revenue sources and working through a projected deficit budget will be among the challenges.

It's important to remember: while a city manager runs the city, the buck always stops with the City Council that makes the hire. Hiring a strong candidate will ensure the city continues to move forward in its goals.

The upcoming months will be a critical time in shaping Streator's future.

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