Joliet City Council division over city manager job on display

An attempt to sway support to Martin Shanahan for the city manager job fell short last week.

Most City Council members appear to want to see the job, which likely will pay more than $200,000 a year, at least posted to see who is interested – even if it does ultimately go to Shanahan, now the interim city manager.

“I think it’s an important job,” council member Michael Turk said. “It’s nothing against the current interim city manager. It’s the process. I think we need to fully vet the process.”

The council has conducted nationwide searches before.

But a few council members backing Shanahan are pointing to the short stay of David Hales, who left in October after less than a year on the job, as a reason not to look beyond Shanahan.

“We did a nationwide search a year ago, and we all know how that turned out,” council member Jan Quillman said at the Tuesday council meeting.

Quillman started off a discussion that at times appeared aimed at drawing out council members to say whether they would support Shanahan.

Council member Larry Hug called on council members to say where they stood on the issue.

“I think politics are being played here,” Hug said at one point, suggesting there was something conspiratorial in posting the job for applicants.

When it was over, Mayor Bob O’Dekirk and three council members, including Terry Morris, voiced their support for Shanahan, which would be one short of the votes needed to bypass a job posting.

“I just like an open process and give other people an opportunity to apply,” council member Bettye Gavin said, adding that she did not think Shanahan was “afraid of the competition.”

Gavin the next day said she came out of a closed session at the end of the council meeting with the impression that the city was going to post the job.

O’Dekirk, however, said there was “no clear consensus” and the council would discuss it more.

Shanahan, who is doing his second stint as interim city manager, said he wants the job.

“I’m very good at being a city manager,” he said.

Shanahan points to accomplishments from his time as interim city manager and as city attorney.

They include a Waste Management contract that reduced city costs by 12% while providing new recycling services and other gains for the city.

Shanahan also said he has dealt with problems that have lingered for years in Joliet. Those problems included unpaid sewer treatment bills from the neighboring South Ridgewood and Greenfield sanitary districts.

“That was something that had not been addressed for a decade,” he said.