Early indicators suggest Anne Marie Gaura will be the type of city manager DeKalb needs.
Gaura is expected to take the top staff post at DeKalb City Hall on Jan. 21, with a four-year contract that pays her about $174,000 annually. She earned both her bachelor’s degree in communications and her master’s degree in public administration from Northern Illinois University before spending 12 years as Montgomery’s village manager.
As Montgomery’s population grew from about 5,500 in 2000 to more than 18,000 in 2010, Gaura helped the village near Aurora build a new police station and village hall and saw substantial retail growth with a Walmart Supercenter, Menard’s and JCPenney.
Some of those projects sound familiar: DeKalb leaders recently completed a new police station and are pondering how to best renovated the DeKalb Municipal Building. Local leaders desperately want to reinvigorate the South Fourth Street corridor and the area along Lincoln Highway between downtown and Northern Illinois University. They also are pondering how to address some dilapidated buildings near the bustling retail stretch along Sycamore Road.
While DeKalb leaders were conducting the search for the new city manager, we suggested they look for a “do-er.” Although it’s up to the aldermen and Mayor John Rey to set policy for the city, it’s the city manager who is in charge of the day-to-day operation of city government. The city manager oversees the heads of all city departments, compiles the budget each year, and is critical in making things work.
We also cautioned that the next city manager needs to keep tight control of the city’s finances. The approach of identifying a problem and then creating and staffing new departments to deal with it is not the right path. That approach has led to changes and cuts at City Hall once in the recent past, and it should not be allowed to reach that point again.
The two people we spoke with who worked with Guara in Montgomery described her as a do-er. Montgomery Village Trustee Stan Bond predicted she would build relationships in the community quickly, while current Village Administrator Jeff Zoephel complimented her professionalism.
“She made sure we had the staffing, infrastructure and equipment to meet the demands of all the new residents and took staff to a new level professionally, at the same time,” Zoephel told Daily Chronicle reporter Debbie Behrends.
On that note, we welcome Gaura to DeKalb, but reiterate our earlier thoughts: DeKalb needs a city manager who can effect change while keeping a tight rein on the budget.