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Phil Kadner: Suburban mayors lining up for big paydays

Orland Park Mayor Dan McLaughlin, seen here greeting a French exchange student at a Rotary Club gathering in 2013, likely will get a big pay boost soon. Salaries for mayors are going up across the suburbs, writes Phil Kadner. | Joseph P. Meier~Sun-Times Media

Chicago suburbs were once tiny hamlets run by part-time mayors and protected by volunteer fire departments, but that’s been changing for decades as many municipalities have become major business centers.

Trustees in Orland Park believe their part-time mayor has done such a wonderful job over the past 23 years that they now need him full-time at a $110,000-a-year-boost in pay, guaranteeing him a pension of a similar amount when he retires.

OPINION

They argue the village needs to recruit corporate and industrial clients to broaden its large commercial base and a part-time mayor simply can’t do the job.

In addition, trustees claim the village would actually save $700,000 a year, since a consultant’s report recommended Orland hire a second full-time assistant village manager and an economic development director.

Robocalls urging residents to attend a recent village board meeting to oppose passage of the mayor’s pay hike (likely financed by Mayor Dan McLaughlin’s political opponents) resulted in a larger than normal crowd at the meeting and speakers repeatedly called for a public referendum on the wage hike.

But the trustees ignored those requests, noting that even the mayor’s most vocal critics had praised his leadership, and unanimously approved a new $150,000 salary that would go into effect only after the next municipal election in April.

As in many Chicago suburbs, the mayor’s position has always been part-time in Orland Park. But the village now has a $148 million annual budget and 58,000 residents. A professional village manager, budgeted at $177,000 for 2017, runs the daily operations of the town, aided by an assistant village manager ($134,540).

In order to progress, according to the consultant’s report accepted by the trustees, the village would have to hire a second full-time assistant village manager at $125,000 a year and an economic development director at a salary of approximately $100,000 a year.

Expanding the role of the mayor will cost a total of $517,000 in salary and retirement benefits over the next four years, while hiring the two new administrators would exceed $1.2 million in salary and benefits, the trustees contend.

Trustees are certain that McLaughlin, former executive director of Plumbing Council of Chicagoland and currently executive director of the Builders Association, has the expertise to do the job based on his years of experience in Orland Park government

In fact, they are so convinced that the trustees repeatedly emphasized they designed the new full-time position only with him in mind, adding that the pay raise ordinance would have to be renewed ever four years or the salary would revert back to $40,000.

McLaughlin said many suburbs now have full-time mayors, although booming Naperville still has a part-time mayor paid only $20,000 a year. That suburb has a city manager paid $181,532 and a deputy city manager paid $165,000. Its economic development operation is run by an organization called the Naperville Development Partnership, which also houses the Naperville Convention and Visitors Bureau. The city provides a portion of the agency’s funding, $470,883.

Tiny Evergreen Park has had a full-time mayor for decades. Mayor James Sexton earns $110,00 a year to oversee a village with an annual budget for $35 million and 20,000 residents. There is no village administrator.

Rosemont Mayor Brad Stephens is scheduled to make $260,000 next year due to a pay hike scheduled to take effect in 2017. Oak Park’s mayor has reportedly said he wanted to go full-time at a salary of about $165,000, but trustees only approved a pay increase from $10,800 to $25,00 a year.

Orland trustees note that the village is so efficiently run that it has rebated a portion of village property taxes to residents and insist the mayor is needed full-time in the village to expand its economic base.

The interesting thing is that as wealthier suburbs add professional staff, spend money on consultants reports and find funds for full-time mayors, some of the poorest, most economically disadvantaged suburbs in Chicago, struggle on with none of those advantages.

Email: philkadner@gmail.com

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