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Oak Park Village Manager Tom Barwin announced at a village board meeting Tuesday that he's resigning from his post after five and a half years on the job. Village President David Pope said after the meeting that Barwin had told the board last week that he would resign.
Barwin read a lengthy statement at the end of Tuesday night's scheduled meeting. In it, he touted his accomplishments since joining the village in August 2006, including a crime rate at a 39-year low, making village hall a more environmentally friendly organization, and battling through a tough economy while reducing staffing by 20 percent and trimming a huge budget deficit.
"I am leaving knowing we have not slipped during my watch and in fact made significant gains during tough times," he said. "I am comforted as I leave knowing the community is in very good hands to take advantage of the many significant opportunities which have been created over the past few years and are now in play."
Afterward, Barwin, 57, said he is not leaving to accept a new position elsewhere, and he plans to stay in Oak Park. He declined to say whether the village board forced him to resign, pointing to his prepared remarks, and said he has no plans to stop working.
"I'm definitely not retiring," he said. "My wife and I are going to evaluate our options. I'd like to do something to keep making the world a better place, maybe figure out a way to create jobs in America."
The village board was in the middle of its routine annual evaluation of the village manager's performance this month. Trustees met in closed session on Feb. 13 to decide whether Barwin should get a raise in 2012, but declined to comment following that get-together.
Last year, Barwin did not receive a raise to his base pay of $165,411, though he did get a one-time $4,135 performance bonus. At the time, trustees declined to say whether the manager received a favorable evaluation, though one board member singled out the Building and Property Standards Department as an area needing improvement.
Pope said late Tuesday that Barwin informed the board last week that he felt it was appropriate for him to resign. He declined to say whether the resignation was tied to the annual performance evaluation.
There are elements in the manager's contract that need to be worked through, Pope said. Board members are hoping to identify an interim manager in the coming days, said Pope. "It is possible, even likely, that the interim manager will be an internal candidate," he said. However, Pope said the village board had not yet settled on an interim manager. Barwin said his last day is Feb. 29.
Trustee Ray Johnson — who with Pope is the longest serving member of the board, at nine years — also declined to say whether Barwin was forced to resign, and would not comment on the recent performance evaluation.
"Clearly what he laid out was what he believes he's achieved, and what that opens up for him personally or professionally, he didn't get into, but this was his statement," Johnson said. "All employees' performance evaluations remain confidential matters, so I can't say anything about that one way or another."
Johnson said he expects the village to conduct a nationwide search to find a new manager, similar to the one they undertook to find Barwin at his last post in Ferndale, Mich. He expects the village staff to transition into new leadership smoothly come one week from now.
"There are some incredibly talented and dedicated staff people in place who have done great work, and will continue to do great work, so I'm very confident that whatever is in the pipeline will continue to move forward," he said.
Trustee John Hedges, himself a former Park District of Oak Park chief and interestingly an interim Oak Park village manager for a short while, acknowledged Barwin's long list of accomplishments, and said he thinks the village will find a new manager that continues in the same tradition.
"It'll take us a while to recoup, but I think we will," Hedges said. "We've always had a tradition of good managers, some strong in some areas, and some strong in other areas. I've seen a lot of them, and I've sure we'll find someobo0dy who will provide that leadership."
Publisher Dan Haley contributed to this report.