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.