Rock Falls City Council OKs changes to city admin qualifications

Requirements of residency, time separate from being an elected official nixed from Rock Falls city administrator position

ROCK FALLS – A term of employment for the Rock Falls city administrator requiring that they live within the city’s electric area utility is gone.

Rock Falls City Council members on Tuesday unanimously voted to remove the residency requirement from the municipal code, along with a requirement that the city administrator not be an elected official or have served as one within a year of their hiring.

Council members did not have any discussion before the vote, although there was opportunity for it.

“We’re working on succession planning with the city right now, just because we have a lot of department heads that are probably within a few years of retiring,” Mayor Pro Tem Gabriella McKanna told Shaw Media after the meeting.

Previously, the city administrator, who is appointed by the mayor with the advice of the City Council, along with a majority vote, was required to become a Rock Falls resident within one year of being hired if they didn’t already live in the city. They also were not allowed to be a current elected official or have been one within the past year.

Nixing the residency requirement was a way to get rid of what they viewed as a “significant handicap,” given the popularity of remote work and the fact that all actions the city administrator takes have to be authorized or preauthorized by the City Council, McKanna said. Anyone qualified for the position is going to have other job opportunities that likely would offer remote or hybrid work environments, she said.

“I’ve kind of heard rumblings, like the city administrator should be required to live in town because they’re the ones making the budget and kind of driving actions that affect people living in town,” McKanna said, but added that concerns a city administrator would “go rogue” or do things that don’t benefit the residents are unfounded.

“The people who are directing the city administrator are the people who live and work in Rock Falls; they’re the City Council, who are representatives and are elected [by residents],” McKanna said.

No other department head is required to live within Rock Falls, nor are they required to not have served as an elected official within a year of their being hired, she said.

McKanna pointed to Rock Falls Building Inspector Mark Searing, who she said was an alderman when he was hired. Searing was hired and resigned from his position as an alderman the same day, she said.

“We just want to make sure that the city administrator is held to the same standards as all the other department heads. So it’s just kind of cleaning up that ordinance a little bit,” McKanna said.

Alexa Zoellner

Alexa Zoellner

Alexa Zoellner covers Ogle County for the Oregon Republican Reporter, Forreston Journal, Mt. Morris Times and Polo Tri-County Press. She has seven-plus years of experience in journalism and has won numerous awards, including a first place award for investigative reporting from the WNA.