McHenry County Local News

Harvard finds new city administrator, who will begin job in December

New admin will replace Dave Nelson, who is retiring from the role after serving in it for 35 years

About eight months after its longtime city administrator announced plans to retire, Harvard has found a new person to head its city government, officials said.

Lou Leone is set to take over for City Administrator Dave Nelson, who has served as Harvard’s city administrator for 35 years, according to a news release from the city Friday.

Leone will be formally confirmed at the city’s Nov. 22 meeting and will start Dec. 12.

Lou Leone will take over the city administrator role for Harvard and will begin his job on Dec. 12, 2022. He will replace Dave Nelson, who is retiring.

“I am excited to join the team of professionals that work hard every day to provide city services to residents and businesses,” Leone said in the release. “I want to be an active member of the community and look forward to getting started.”

Once he starts, Leone will spend several weeks learning about the organization to create “as smooth of a transition as possible,” Mayor Michael Kelly said in the release.

Before taking on the role, Leone has served as city administrator for Kiowa, Kansas; New London, Wisconsin; and Nebraska City, Nebraska, according to the release. He has a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Millikin University and a master’s in public administration from the University of Colorado at Denver.

He’s also worked as a paralegal and has a paralegal certificate from Loyola University in Chicago, according to the release.

Harvard City Administrator Dave Nelson announced his intention to retire in the first week of 2023, leaving his position after more than 30 year of serving as the city's top government employee.

Leone was selected from a pool of 19 candidates to replace Nelson, who announced his retirement in February after more than three decades of service, according to the release.

Earlier in the year, Nelson said he intended to retire by Jan. 6, 2023. He joined the role in 1988 at the age of 25, and it was the only full-time job he ever had, he said. He said he felt it was his chance “to live a little life after this.”

Over the course of his tenure, Nelson worked with six different mayors and 50 aldermen. He also hired north of 90% of the staff who worked for the city.

Many, including Kelly, said that it would be difficult to replace Nelson given his institutional knowledge of the city.

Looking forward, Leone will enter the fray as the city begins working on its new budget for fiscal 2024, according to the release. He also will need to hire two new department heads, complete a major wastewater treatment plant upgrade and work on certain economic development initiatives.

“Mr. Leone will need to hit the ground running,” Kelly said in the release. ”Mr. Leone will certainly have his hands full in ensuring we maintain essential city services while getting to learn our city, residents and businesses.”

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