With so many worthy causes deserving of our attention as duly elected members of the Kane County Board, we continue to divert our attention the internal politics of the hiring policies. At October’s Administrative Committee hearing, discussion of this topic dominated the meeting.
Please do not misunderstand me. I am all for a transparent, and open process that will insure that the ultimate candidate chosen is someone who is worthy of the position, but I feel that we are currently over thinking, and over analyzing this subject to the point of nausea. For instance, while listening to the discussion held at Admin, I personally felt that far too much emphasis continues to be placed on the quantity of Board members within the proposed hiring committee rather than the actual purpose of the committee itself. I would like to submit that we as a County Board attempt to simply the issue to allow several factors to remain constant:
- All qualified applicants are allowed equal access and opportunity
- The elimination of the specter of nepotism/cronyism
- The best candidate to lead the particular department or portion of Kane County is ultimately hired
So how do we accomplish these goals? I would suggest that we look at each hiring process in a different manner. One size does not always fit all in cases like these. While the current policy approved last year by the Kane County Board originated from good intentions, I believe it may in effect throw the baby out with the bathwater.
When I was a student at Elgin Community College I served on two search committees: one to select the President of the College, and one to select the Vice President of Finance. As Student Body President, I was chosen to serve on these committees to offer my insight as a student within the college, basically a consumer or client of the school itself. I was joined by representatives of the staff, faculty, administration, local industry leaders and community activists. The search committee for the college President was roughly twice the size of the one established for the Vice President, as it was agreed that the former would have a larger overall impact on not only the college itself but the various communities and constituencies of the school. The process worked, and we hired two outstanding individuals. So why are we reinventing the wheel?
We should design each committee specifically to draw upon the strengths and experience of the individuals serving on it. The goal is for each person to bring something to the table, whether personal or professional experience, or representative of a unique constituency that is affected by the hire. To start, if we were to hire an individual who reported to one or two committees, then logically the chair or chairs of those committees could aid in the selection process. If the position only reported to one committee, than it should be at the discretion of the Board Chair to select one or more additional members to assist, based on what they may bring to the table. For instance, wouldn't everyone agree that Commissioners Auger, Hoescheit, Pollock and Scheflow would have far more insight in selecting a legal professional than individuals such Commissioners Donahue, Frasz or myself whose primary backgrounds are within development and construction fields? When looking at positions involving agriculture, Commissioners Smith and Kenyon would be obvious choices over Commissioners Allan and Castro since their districts are completely within the municipality of Elgin. There are so many outstanding members of our County Board, all with different backgrounds and experience. We should utilize each member’s unique abilities. After all, wasn't that what we were elected to do?
As we head into the hiring process for the replacement of Tim Harbaugh, arguably one of the most important positions within county staff, this search committee will require plenty of insight from those with backgrounds in transportation, development, environment, and more. The position touches so many portions of our county operations it is essential that we get this right. We should consider possibly taking a much broader approach and look towards a national search. It is the prerogative of the Chairman of the Board to establish the policy in which he or she believes will yield the most qualified candidates, and fulfill the three objectives I listed previously.
Ultimately, the Chairman will make the final decision, based upon the recommendations of the search committee. It is the responsibility of the County Board to then confirm the hire. If the Chair chooses wisely, the hire could make his or her tenure much simpler and far more successful. If the Chair chooses poorly, then the County Board will continue to argue about the hiring process for years to come.
Dear lord, we all pray that the latter does not occur. Kane County, and our personal sanity cannot endure.