Joliet hires Capparelli as city manager

James Capparelli addresses the City Council ahead of his appointment as the new city manager on Friday, Jan. 8, 2021, at Joiliet City Hall in Joliet, Ill.

James Capparelli on Friday was hired to be Joliet city manager, becoming the first person in more than two years to hold the position on any kind of permanent basis.

The City Council in a special meeting voted 5-3 to hire Capparelli to do the job that has been done by three interim city managers since October 2018.

Capparelli recognized the likelihood he would face a split vote from the council that has been sharply divided over the city manager position.

Addressing the council before the vote, he said, “If this comes to pass, I look forward to working with each and every one of you on whatever you need help with.”

Capparelli will start Monday and will be paid a salary of $192,000.

While he is the first permanent city manager in more than two years, his contract is only for one year with a provision for one-year extensions after performance reviews.

Voting for Capparellli were Larry Hug, Herb Lande, Terry Morris, Jan Quillman and Bettye Gavin.

Voting no were Pat Mudron, Sherri Reardon and Michael Turk.

Capparelli, a private Joliet attorney with the Castle Law firm, does not have previous city management experience, a point raised by two of the council members voting against the contract.

He does, however, have extensive military experience, including management of large budgets and staffs at the Pentagon from a previous Army career.

Mayor Bob O’Dekirk, who backed Capparelli, went through what he called “an outstanding resume” before the vote to show Capparelli’s background. O’Dekirk emphasized Capparelli’s 31 years of experience in the Army and his achieving the rank of colonel.

The mayor pointed to Capparelli’s management of contracts valued at $5 billion and oversight of 7,000 linguists in Afghanistan as well as military experience as an Army Ranger.

Mudron, however, cast the first dissenting vote, noting that the city has conducted a nationwide candidate search that has identified “a handful” of prospects with city management background waiting to be interviewed.

“On paper, they would do a better job,” Mudron said.

Turk read a statement saying Joliet’s city manager form of government depends on leadership from the city manager.

“I have always advocated for an experienced, trained city manager to lead our city,” Turk said, explaining his no vote but wishing Capparelli well.

Reardon said her no vote was based on the selection process used to hire Capparelli.

“We were given one choice and one choice only,” she said.

Capparelli’s hiring was lined up in a week after interim City Manager Jim Hock told the council he would leave the job on Friday.

But Capparelli had applied for the job in a candidate search that preceded the current one. Capparelli was one of three finalists for the job when he interviewed with the council a year ago. He did not make the final cut to two, but the council then decided not to hire those candidates before launching another search.