Following in the footsteps of New Lenox Village Administrator Russ Loebe, a man who gave 26 years to overseeing the operations of a community that's moved from rural to suburban in nature, is indeed a challenge. However, the newly appointed administrator, Kurt Carroll, is ready to help shape the community's 21st century direction.
On the job for a mere three weeks, the 44-year-old former head of municipal operations for 10-plus years at the Village of Shorewood on Will County's western edge, Carroll said he is focused on enacting and fine-tuning the goals already in place by the six members of the Village Board of Trustees and Mayor Tim Baldermann.
Simultaneously he aims to continue fostering a sense of cooperation between this home-rule municipality and other taxing bodies, including as well as schools, park and library districts. Elected officials and appointed staff have to be committed to providing services that are value-driven, he said, and that's achieved by cooperation and sharing resources.
In Shorewood, for example, he supervised projects in which the village and the park district joined forces to satisfy the community's needs. The possibilities for cooperation are unique to the situation, but an open-mind/open door attitude makes for positive relationships, Carroll said in a June 13 phone interview.
The man who honed his skills in 1993-94 as a program specialist at the South Suburban Mayors and Managers Association, which serves 40 municipalities in the South Metro Region, Carroll said his management skills have been cultivated to integrate operating budgets, economic development, capital improvements and commercial growth while preserving and enhancing the natural amenities and residential flavor of the community.
While in Shorewood, Carroll supervised the construction of a new village hall, remodeled the police station and refurbished and added onto the public works building. In New Lenox, he said, a new police station and updated public works facilities are on his radar.
The key to success at this point in time is balancing the financial realities of today's economy, which includes paying close attention to the goings on in the Illinois General Assembly while safeguarding the quality of life issues that dominate the resident and commercial interests of the village.
Carroll said he anticipates building a healthy relationship with Rep. Renée Kosel (R-New Lenox) as it concerns municipal tax proposals as well as funding for area projects. Having grappled with road improvement projects on Interstate 55 and Illinois Route 59 that dominated the landscape in Shorewood for the past few years, Carroll said he's got a firm grip on the logistics that are destined to impact the New Lenox as it suffers through and later benefits from substantial road widening and repaving projects on Interstate 80 and Route 30.
The concerns of existing commercial interests along Route 30 are not something to be overlooked by Carroll during the construction period. Maintaining smooth access to the business is crucial, but so is sustaining that relationship in the aftermath.
"We want to create a program for those businesses, something that would upgrade (the commercial strip) so that they stay vibrant," he said.
A development such as the Atrium Point complex at Schoolhouse Road and Route 30 features the kind of efficiency in land-use that is growing in the suburbs. This particular development utilized the two-story feature to attract restaurants and commercial development on the ground level, while providing office space above. In some municipalities, the second story has been reserved for condominium development due to the building's proximity to the Metra train.
The newly built train station on the south end of New Lenox off Laraway Road is recognized for its potential to thrive as a subdivision with a combination of quality-of-life amenities because it's close to transportation and surrounded by near access to shopping, recreational facilities and schools, he said.
So far, Carroll said he has been smitten by the village's commitment to serving and enhancing the amenities for the people who live here. The village hall and library campus is not merely a place for administrative operations; it's used for recreation purposes. The summer concert schedule for professional bands and the schedule of pavilion programs for community-based programs, including the Lincoln-Way Area Chorale, school bands and the like, is attractive. The summer concert series draws a good crowd, and it brings in money that can be used to support other recreational programs, he said.
Having steeped himself in the issues that pertain to New Lenox, he said he looks forward to maintaining and enriching aspects that are woven into the "fabric of the community."
A fan of Daniel Burnham, the architect and urban planner that built some of Chicago's most famous buildings in the 1880s and 1890s, Carroll said, "I want to unabashedly steal the best from good communities" and adapt it to accommodate New Lenox. There is no single community that stands out in his mind as one to be copied, but urban planning and village administration is built on previous achievements.
Certainly Chicago's lake front is a model for resurrecting an area that had become a blight. Today, Millennium Park has changed all that. The improvements run up and down along the lake. Navy Pier got a facelift among other things. While that's not the program for New Lenox, it can work to feed creative endeavors in this community, he said.
When the combination of values, desires and needs come together, he said, "you can prime pump for business and residential to move forward in ways that reflect and respect the nature of the community."