Thomas Cromwell and local government

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By John Hubbuch

I just finished reading an historical novel Wolf Hall by Hillary Mantel. It was kind of long, and the people talked funny, but I liked it. It told the story of Thomas Cromwell's life journey from a wretched abusive childhood to becoming Henry VIII's right hand man. Cromwell was largely responsible for Henry's divorce and the demise of the Catholic Church in England.

Though Cromwell was born a lowly commoner, he achieved great fame and fortune by mastering detail and knowing where all the bodies were buried. He was able to stay on top for a long time despite the many shifts in Henry's moods and the noble's shifting loyalties. He became the indispensable man.

Five hundred years later things probably haven't changed all that much in government. Tom Barwin (Village Manager), Albert Brooks (Superintendent of District 97), Steve Isoye (Superintendent of District 200) and Gary Balling (Executive Director of Parks and Rec) are the Cromwells of our Village. Their professional expertise, experience, and mastery of the day-to-day operations of their respective enterprises coupled with their being the boss make them at least as influential as the bodies to whom they report. Like Cromwell, they are essential to turning the gears of government.

From my personal experience a long time ago as a District 97 Board Member, I can assure you I was no match to debate school finance or building operations and maintenance with District 97 administration.

However, there is at least one big difference between Thomas Cromwell and the modern administrator. Cromwell's service ended with his heading being chopped off. Today such service ends in a severance package. And so civilization progresses.

Reader Comments

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John Hubbuch from Oak Park   

Posted: November 19th, 2010 7:53 AM

The question of who runs Oak Park is fascinating to me. It's clearly not just the elected officials. I suspect it's an interconnected web of business and government.

Susan Swatek from Beskid Mountains, Poland  

Posted: November 17th, 2010 11:56 AM

How does an administrator work effectively, keep an eyeball on the bottom line and still bat eyelashes at the big bosses in Oak Park? By the way,really, who are the big bosses in Oak Park? Susan Swatek

john murtagh from Oak Park  

Posted: November 16th, 2010 2:00 AM

I have known a lot of city managers and school superintendents. They have an amazing skill set. They are all crafty straw bosses and clever politician. Maybe its clever straw bosses and crafty politicians! They are like Chinese meals. You chat with them for 20 minutes and an hour later, you're not sure if they told you anything. Crazy thing is they are always smiling in probably one on the most stressful jobs on the planet. They do get to keep their heads most of the time.

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