The village of Oak Park is nearing the end of its months-long search for a permanent replacement for Cara Pavlicek, who departed as Oak Park’s village manager last August. A personnel committee, a subset of the village board, will determine which five or six applicants will move forward in the selection process. The decision will be made during executive session, directly following the committee’s public Dec. 13 meeting, according to Oak Park Human Resources Director Kira Tchang.
A total of 38 applications have been received by the village. Two of those applications came from international candidates located in Turkey and Australia. Tchang shared that the village of Oak Park was “really pleased” with the number of applications received, despite not knowing how many to anticipate at the onset.
“The market is really interesting right now, in terms of municipal government leadership roles. We’ve seen a lot of retirements, so we were not really sure,” she said.
It is unclear if Interim Village Manager Lisa Shelley submitted an application. Shelley did not respond to Wednesday Journal’s inquiry, but previously told the publication in October that she had not decided whether to apply. The village of Oak Park is not releasing the names of those who applied at this time.
“Ultimately, I know that information will become public, but we do want to ensure confidentiality of candidates up until they have a more reasonable expectation of getting an offer or knowing they’re proceeding in the process,” Tchang said.
Noting that she understood the importance of government transparency and the public’s interest in this process, Tchang told Wednesday Journal the village of Oak Park is upholding applicants’ confidentiality at this time out of professional consideration. Many candidates, Tchang believes, may not have told their current employers they were pursuing this position.
“A lot of people don’t want their current employer to know that they’re looking at other opportunities until they feel reasonably comfortable that it’s worth letting them know,” she said.
The village of Oak Park is being assisted in its village manager recruitment efforts by GovHR USA, a human resources consulting firm based out of Northbrook. The board’s personnel committee will vote to approve GovHR’s proposed candidate interview process Dec. 13, prior to the committee adjourning into executive session.
GovHR is proposing a two-part process which begins with an initial round of virtual interviews of five or six pre-determined candidates conducted by the board committee. It has not been determined if those initial interviews will take place publicly or during a future executive session.
“That is a component that has to be decided by the personnel committee,” said Tchang.
The pool of candidates will be narrowed to three or four finalists, at which point their identities and qualifications will likely become public knowledge. Tchang expects finalists will be chosen in early or mid-January.
The finalists will be invited to participate in the second half of the proposed interview process, which involves a two-day visit to Oak Park with established COVID-19 safety protocols. During the visit, finalists will attend a meet-and-greet with the community and tour village facilities, new developments and other points of interest. Each finalist will also meet with village department heads and members of community panels. The village board will also publicly interview each finalist.
GovHR has already conducted “comprehensive screenings” of qualified applicants, according to Tchang. The screening process involved background and reference checks, as well as Zoom interviews with GovHR personnel. The firm will also provide recommendations regarding candidates to the personnel committee.
Tchang said the village has been “very happy” with GovHR. She called the firm “a great partner.”
“They have a wealth of knowledge in the municipal recruitment space,” she said. “Their network has really been a big benefit to the village.”