After 40 years of service in New Lenox—26 as the village's administrator—Russ Loebe will retire this spring.
Thank you all for all the support," Loebe said to Village Board members and staff Monday night. "It's truly been a pleasure. But our work's not done yet. Thank you so much for the opportunity to serve New Lenox."
In 2009, Loebe announced that he would retire before later rescinding that decision. There were a few reasons for that: First, Loebe's plan was to retire and spend the rest of Mayor Tim Baldermann's term (ending in April) as a contractor at half the salary while also receiving his pension. But the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund changes its pension policy, and it made more sense for Loebe to stay in his position another year.
That year also allowed him to stay administrator through the mayor's term; if he had left earlier, someone new only would have been in the role with this board for a short amount of time. Now that the mayor and three trustees up for re-election are all running unopposed, Loebe said this move now allows the village to plan ahead for the next term.
Finally, Loebe said there were a few major projects in New Lenox that he wanted to stay on to help see through. That included work along Route 6 with the Silver Cross Hospital replacement campus, Route 30 roadwork and retail developments such as the New Lenox Town Center where is now.
"We have certainly benefitted from having him this year," Baldermann said.
The Village Board voted Monday to remove a clause in Loebe's contract that requires a 60-day notice before he leaves. This was in case the village finds another qualified candidate before that time or Loebe finds another job elsewhere.
"No matter what happens, he'll be around long enough for the transition so we feel comfortable," Baldermann said. "We need to feel comfortable with the person who sits up here and runs the day-to-day operations of the village."
Loebe's longevity in the position was a matter of some jokes, but also what the board saw as an attractive point to make to candidates for his job.
"Rusty started in this town when I was in preschool," Baldermann said. "The fact that he has been here so long speaks volumes about our town and the consistency of this board and of the staff."
That's certainly a point that the village's search firm will make. The board approved hiring Voorhees Associates, LLC, based in Deerfield, to find Loebe's replacement. The search will cost the village at least $14,700 for marketing the job opening and recruiting, screening and interviewing candidates.
"I've known Russ for a while, and (consistency is) what candidates look for," search firm President Heidi Voorhees said of Loebe's long tenure with the village. "Somewhere that will be challenging but the political side is stable."
A committee of board members will help narrow applicants, and the entire board will approve the replacement. The villages anticipates it could appoint a new administrator by the start of May. Voorhees said it could take another 30 to 60 days for the person hired to actually start working, though.
Everyone at the board meeting acknowledged they'll have plenty of time to thank Loebe for his work, but they said he'll be hard to replace.
"You won't ever fill his shoes, but we do need you to fill his position," Village Trustee Annette Bowden said to Voorhees.