By Anna Lothson
Holding the village manager to a certain standard isn't new to Oak Park, as shown by the board's actions last year which resulted in the departure of Tom Barwin. But this time around, Oak Park gave a fresh look to an old approach.
Bob Slavin, president of Slavin Management Consultants was the man who led the board through the village manager search process, which landed Cara Pavlicek in the permanent role. When initially hired, Slavin promised he'd lead the board through a performance goal review once the manager was hired.
He delivered that promise at Monday evening's three-and-a-half hour special board meeting where trustees vetted their top priorities for Pavlicek to be achieved over the next 12 months.
After the board collectively rattled off 48 goals, many of which were connected, they were tasked with whittling those priorities down to 10 that could be realistically started or achieved by Pavlicek and her team. The remaining categories, however, won't be tossed out the window; but they won't necessarily be used in how Pavlicek is evaluated during her first official year as village manager.
The final list, in the order that was awarded the most points based on trustee votes, came down to the following: economic development; developing a clean, efficient budget process; addressing technology; improving customer services levels; continuing the performance management pilot program; achieving intergovernmental agreements; addressing community life and engagement; addressing employee relations/human resources; public safety matters; and having an outline plan for addressing the Eisenhower expansion/renovation project.
Village President David Pope pointed out during the process that the goals outlined Monday by the board are representative of goals identified by the board when the profile for the village manager candidate was sent out by the village last summer.
"It goes back to largely how we've done things in the past," he said.
Slavin explained the nominal group process is a technique used to set performance criteria for Pavlicek to achieve within a specific period of time, likely in a year's time. Performance measures can then be measured against a set of criteria that's agreed upon by the board.
"The goals need to be feasible, measurable, and accomplished within resources available," he said. "It gets each of you involved."
Pope also pointed out that for the past 7 years, Oak Park has had a "very distinct process" in terms of board evaluation of the village manager's performance. It's also a matter that's discussed in the personnel committee. Identifying goals and direction for Pavlicek to follow helps the board determine if she's doing what the board expects, Pope said.
Through this process, the board will have regular check-ins and updates with Pavlicek and have the opportunity to discuss where more focus may be needed. After the priorities were agreed upon, trustees requested Pavlicek come back to the village board with a report of how she believes she can achieve the goals set out by the village board.
Pavlicek was present at the special board meeting and she was able to identify what goals she also thought needed to be addressed by her office. She did not partake in the final votes about what the final 10 priorities would be.
Pavlicek said this process is helpful in identifying new issues, issues that may have been overlooked in the past, and also help give the board direction on what projects to push forward to the village manager's office based on the goals she's been assigned.
"It keeps us on direction," she said, which avoids taking on too many projects at once and losing focus. "We have to stay disciplined."
Pope noted it is helpful having an understanding of the village manager's performance goals aligned across the board. Trustee Colette Lueck also pointed out the benefits, specifically touching on the fact that the board identified some priorities, like customer services, that haven't been discussed as an explicit goal before.
"It's been more putting out fires as they've come up," she said.
Board members agreed, and concluded the performance management evaluation process gives the village a more pro-active approach to measuring progress.
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