Oak Park names Cara Pavlicek village manager


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By Anna Lothson

Staff Reporter

Village President David Pope said Monday that a nationwide search to find Oak Park's next village manager proved they already had the best candidate in house.

Interim Village Manager Cara Pavlicek will be officially named manager on Wednesday at a special swearing in meeting, Pope announced during his comments at the regular village board meeting. Her contract will also be approved at that time.

Pavlicek was been serving in the interim role since March 1, following Tom Barwin's Feb. 21 resignation announcement. In May, Slavin Management Consultants was hired for a fee not to exceed $21,490 to assist in the search. Pope said the goal was to have a manager hired in September, but a variety of circumstances delayed the process. Four months later, however, he was confident in the board's decision.

"She has the ability to see how an organization can run more effectively," he said,
"and is willing to engage in dialogue and discussion with the village board with the deployment of resources in ways that will be most effective in helping to advance their policy prescriptions."

Pavlicek won't have to fill out much paperwork or be brought up to speed on village issues when she officially takes over after being sworn in Wednesday. Still, Pope said it's a benefit that she's ahead of the learning curve but noted it wasn't a factor in the decision.

"There's no doubt that Cara's experience in our community and knowledge of the various issues we face and many of the characteristics that really help define who we are is certainly a plus," he said."

Pavlicek, who was the parking services manager before being named interim manager, has worked for 20 years in municipal management, including 10 as a city manager. Most recently, she served as manager of Downers Grove for nearly three years before getting fired. She subsequently filed a lawsuit against the community, alleging breach of contract, and was awarded $73,000, according to a February 2012 Wednesday Journal article.

Following Monday's meeting Pavlicek said she was excited to finally have a permanent position but wanted to reserve extensive comments until after the decision was confirmed.

"It's been nice to do the interim job. It has given me the opportunity to work with all the staff and really get to know the governing body and really get to know the community in a different role," she said. "That's nice and I think it gives me a better sense of the magnitude of the day to day responsibilities."

The only notable difference, she said, is the permanent title.

The village received 41 applications that were quickly narrowed to 13 by a village manager subcommittee, led by Pope and Trustees Ray Johnson and Colette Lueck. The pool slimmed to six candidates, coming from five states, who were each brought in for interviews the second week of December.

Pope said it was not initially known when the search process was launched if Pavlicek would apply, and when she did it was not a guarantee that she would be a finalist. The search process, he noted, was essential to ensure the village had the highest qualified applicant.  

"I think it has been from the beginning the strong commitment from the entire village board to hire the very best candidate," Pope said. "In turn, it was necessary to conduct a search process to see who the best prospective candidates could be."

Bob Slavin, the head of the consulting firm, helped lead the board through a comprehensive search to identify what was needed for the next village manager. Pavlicek's name was thrown into the mix and Pope said the group was impressed with her "background and application."

In August, Oak Park sent out a community and candidate profile to attract applicants. The profile cited qualities desired in the village manager. These included, among others, balancing the direction of the board of trustees and building "effective working relationships." … Ability to "recognize the need for diversity. …Be a strategic thinker with an eye for detail with a strong orientation toward customer service. …Willing to play a highly visible role in the community. … have extensive experience in staff development and team leadership. … able to promote green and sustainable initiatives. …[and] an accessible team leader and colleague who is comfortable with delegation and accountability."

"He (Slavin) helped us to refine and think about the types of characteristics and qualities that collectively as a board would be the priorities of the things we were thinking about as we began to initiate the search," Pope said.  "That was very valuable in ensuring our board came through the search process in a way that helped to promote a comprehensive and unified perspective in what we might be seeking."

Also in the profile sent out to prospective candidates, professional attributes were named, including "a professionally stable administrator with a record of tenure and consistent career growth. …An active regional leader. …proved track record of staff development. …demonstrated background in guiding and participating in the redevelopment of cities and metropolitan areas. …[and] a person of strong and professional values and ethics; politically neutral [who] must listen and be 'whole village' centered and not myopic."

Pope said the process, albeit longer than desired, garnered a "competitive pool" of applicants and confirmed Oak Park was a desirable place for village manager candidates.

Pope also said the process created positive precedent for future Oak Park manager searches since he believes a competitive, diverse search is always necessary to find the best candidate when a transition occurs.

Barwin resigned with a base salary of $165,411. As interim manager,  Pavlicek is currently being paid $125,000. Her new salary will be announced Wednesday.

 "Obviously the responsibilities already exist whether you're in that interim position or not. Once you accept the position – there's a lot more responsibility, you can't say well, I'm the interim, let's hold off on addressing the issue. There's responsibility of getting the board's direction and finalizing it and moving forward."

 It's that experience with the board as interim that Pope said will serve her well.

"I think the members of the board were duly impressed with her background, both what she's been able to achieve in other communities and in the experience we've had working with her over the past 10 months," Pope said. "Cara ultimately emerged as the strongest candidate and the person best equipped to help us advance the vision of strengthening Oak Park even beyond where it is today."

Email: anna@oakpark.com Twitter: @AnnaLothson

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Posted: January 15th, 2013 7:26 AM

@Insider--it must be the Medusa effect.


Posted: January 14th, 2013 11:47 PM

The majority of employees at Village Hall won't even look at her.


Posted: January 11th, 2013 5:53 AM

@voter from new Cara Swearing ceremony article... I love digital archiving! Keep this thread alive by continuing to comment on it. Vote the VMA OUT in April!

Jim Coughlin from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: January 10th, 2013 6:06 PM

Clayton, see a doctor if you continue to experience those symptons and talk to a mental professional on ways to effectively address anger issues. Best of luck to you.


Posted: January 10th, 2013 5:47 PM

@A Neighbor from Oak Park, Illinois Really than why did they only get 41 applicants? Money isn't everything. And I did move, you people are the most annoying, bitter individuals I've ever encountered and just passing through your bitter little hamlet makes my skin crawl.

Bruce Samuels from Oak Park  

Posted: January 10th, 2013 4:01 PM

For input into the VOP Comprehensive Plan Citizens for Community Conversation is holding a round table discussion at the Oak Park Main Library on Sunday, January 20 from 2-5 in the Small Meeting Room. Attendees may want to review the Village's 1990 Comprehensive Plan as it contains a great many good concepts and ideas. You can do that here: http://envisionoakpark.com/Documents/tabid/3082/Default.aspx For further information see Community-conversation.org.

Inmates Still Running the Asylum  

Posted: January 10th, 2013 3:15 PM

I'm betting first choice, first-rate candidates turned down offers after learning how previous mngrs. bailed out (Barwin, Swenson). And isn't $150K excessive, given Pavlicek 's lack of experience? .

Jim Coughlin from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: January 10th, 2013 1:19 PM

I guess we'll have to call it the "Oak Park way". The lively debate is good for those who don't want our Village to ever take a backward step.

Newer OPer  

Posted: January 10th, 2013 12:38 PM

Jim, my concern is with the ability of the new village manager to control the chaos a bit more than my living here so far. Things certainly are lively. But in most places I've lived the local politics is boring where things just get done. In OP it's the opposite, we can't cover the basics and then fight about it. lol It's like walking into a party where everyone is arguing about who is going to go buy beer. At that point you turn to your friends and go "let's go to a bar."

Jim Coughlin from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: January 10th, 2013 11:55 AM

Newer OPer, please note that the Village received 41 applications from persons interested in the position of Village Manager. They apparently did not recognize as an issue what you call "chaos & disfuntion" at least to the point of being dissuaded from applying to "run this nuthouse". A review by the board's committee determined that 13 candidates offered the required experience and qualifications as outlined in the job description. Throwing Pavlicek's name into the mix was decision that was made by those who were charged to review the applications. She obviously was not frightened off by "an extraordinary lack of function". I'm not reallly sure what you mean by that but would respond that Oak Park has a long and vibrant history of citizen activism that has proven to be most beneficial to the community in general. There are a number of excellent resources you can access that detail our Village's rich history. As a new resident, it might be worth your time to seek out more information on why Oak Park chose a Village Manager approach to governance and the accomplishments of those who welcomed the opportunity to serve us in that capacity. It should also be noted that much of the debate/discussion about politics in Oak Park centers on the valid concerns about the dominance of the VMA in the process. We've basically been under single party rule for many decades and that is viewed by a number of concerned and responsible citizens as contrary to the concept of open and honest government. VMA members see it as being a absolutely positive benefit and that has been the nature of the ongoing exchange of opinions on this forum regarding the overall decision making process.

calm down folks from Oak Park  

Posted: January 10th, 2013 11:27 AM

Odd/Even parking restrictions for snowfall? After having a bad experience with a parking ticket enforcer dude who over stepped his duties I had a very nice interaction with Cara. I found her to be quite helpful, reasonable and a great representative of the Village. Good luck in your new position. After reading the comments you are going to need it. People, please treat everyone as you would want to be treated. Works well...Cheers!

The VMA Way  

Posted: January 10th, 2013 10:44 AM

It is the VMA way to select staff / elected officials with proven allegiance to their interests, leaving little to chance. They accomplish this by either; a) having candidates prove their loyalty by serving on Planning Commission, interim staff positions, or school boards, or b) hiring those who would not qualify for an equivalent position anywhere else, thus ensuring indebted gratitude. Ms. Pavlicek met both VMA qualifiers, as deemed by VMA selection committee Pope, Johnson and Lueck.

Newer OPer  

Posted: January 10th, 2013 8:16 AM

I gotta go with Clayton on this one. Now, I've only been here for Tom Barwin, so maybe it did used to be better before him. But not being from here, I can say that it isn't always like this. Part of it is just the nature of OP...it's built in, I get that. We have an extraordinary lack of basic function that surprised me as a new resident. We have many bells & whistles but there is definitely a chaos & dysfunction that disturbs me as a resident--and would scare me off trying to run this nuthouse.

Jim Coughlin from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: January 10th, 2013 12:10 AM

Your call is off base, Clayton. Oak Park has never lacked interest from qualified individuals seeking the position of Village Manager. Our community is nationally known and recognized for citizen activism. We've had some top notch people serve our community and will again.

A Neighbor from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: January 9th, 2013 9:50 PM

Clayton - for $125k to $165k a year there's many people out there who would put up with 10x as much as the worst that residents throw at them on the web here. Were you born with a sliver spoon in your mouth? Must be chump change to you. Is there a community that pays that kind of salary and puts their village manager or equivalent on a pedestal and worships them, especially day one with bad baggage in tow? If you don't like neighbors who speak their minds feel free to move.


Posted: January 9th, 2013 9:42 PM

For those of you who don't know, Larry Dominick is the Town President of Cicero.


Posted: January 9th, 2013 3:42 PM

While this pic doesn't excite me either, you all need to face the truth that there's not a lot of people out there that want to deal with you people. The constant second guessing, whining, petty nickpicking makes it a pretty crappy job. Blame yourselfs for this pic, they found one person who wanted to put up with you all.

Larry Dominick from Cicero  

Posted: January 9th, 2013 2:20 PM

Thank you, VOP Trustees. You've done the impossible....you've made me look like the epitome of transparency, proper hiring practices, and overall good government.

Matt on Madison  

Posted: January 9th, 2013 2:08 PM

Ray, why given the high level of talent you interviewed was this the best choice?? Simple question.


Posted: January 9th, 2013 1:47 PM

Another lawsuit waiting in the wings when the board realizes they made a HUGE mistake and then tries to get rid of her.

Dan Hefner from Oak Park  

Posted: January 9th, 2013 1:32 PM

Downers Grove Chronicle 1-7-10 "It was a unanimously determined by the Village Council that there were ample grounds to terminate her employment". Please read entire article.

mo money mo problems  

Posted: January 9th, 2013 12:33 PM

Great job. We can thank this lady for higher parking rates, and I'm sure we'll be able to thank her for higher taxes and fees in Oak Park. BTW, why was she fired from Downers Grove anyways? Why is it such a big secret?

Concerned from Oak Park  

Posted: January 9th, 2013 12:07 PM

I actually like Cara and think she will do a great job. But I think this decision really calls into question how the board, and specifically John Hedges, makes decisions and the level of transparency they feel is appropriate (seemingly none). Hedges is running for office and must have been intimately involved in the decision. Even though I like Cara, I'm not sure this is a trait I can support in a village president.


Posted: January 9th, 2013 11:01 AM

Really, the best candidate from a nationwide search for a new village manager was an in-house employee who had recently been fired for cause from a job as a village manager? What nation did they search?

One Direction  

Posted: January 8th, 2013 11:46 PM

Village board members have been taking a more active role in the operations at Village Hall. This hiring is no shocker. Cara Plavicek has proven to be type of village manager they prefer. Her limited skills and no proven record of achievement will serve the trustees well as they steamroll us with an agenda that has called for huge increases in fees, reduction and elimination of basic services and using scarce tax dollars to fund ill-conceived projects. No community input sought in the process


Posted: January 8th, 2013 9:54 PM

Anyone else waiting for the WJ endorsement for Cara P? Will the WJ act like the Suntimes endorsing Todd Stroger with a "let's give him a chance" but "we will be watching very carefully" editorial? Sometimes mistakes are just that. Mistakes.

Speaking of elections  

Posted: January 8th, 2013 9:43 PM

I'd like to hear what Anan Abu-Taleb thinks of this decision.

MavenTom from Oak Park  

Posted: January 8th, 2013 9:28 PM

I'm guessing that after reading all the rants by villagers on other topics, none of the other applicants wanted the job.

OP Resident 947 from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: January 8th, 2013 9:26 PM

@north oak parker - Well, that condescending attitude is exactly why she was hired. Ever speak up at a OP Board meeting with a dissenting view to that of the Trustees? She'll fit right in. Village election is coming. Don't forget to show up to the poll and vote some of these clowns out.


Posted: January 8th, 2013 9:20 PM

Viable parking turned to dust. Who turned north blvd slots behind the tennis club at Ridgeland into a ghost town? In 2007 each slot was filled garnering 3 to 4 bucks a slot. Then they changed to 1 buck an hour and the villagers went elsewhere. Drive by it on a weekday. Empty. Going on 5 years, Do we bring in the same dollars in 2013 as in 2007?

north oak parker from o  

Posted: January 8th, 2013 9:08 PM

During my interactions at the village office I was displeased with Cara's condescending attitude towards village residents. When I was purchasing my village sticker, I witnessed her speaking to another resident who had a complaint. I was embarrassed by her interactions with this resident and actually felt bad for him. She embarrassed him in front of a lot of people. Hiring her as the new VM is a mistake.


Posted: January 8th, 2013 8:33 PM

I bet Pavlicek wasn't their first or even second choice. The long wait was for the real top candidates to make their decisions. Unfortunately we ended up with Cara. Don't forget to VOTE AGAINST JOHN HEDGES for Village President.

former resident and business owner in oak park  

Posted: January 8th, 2013 8:23 PM

don't worry Anthony Shaker, someone might blame you for this mess too. In all seriousness, that parking garage is the laughing stock of parking garages everywhere and the VOP Pkng dept is a joke!! Could you imagine if any of us ran our business' like the village runs theirs? Good luck Oak Park, when my lease is up I am outta here

OP Transplant  

Posted: January 8th, 2013 6:36 PM

All kidding aside, I think that Oak Parkers are wondering how a nationwide search results in the hiring of someone in house who was fired for cause from the same job in a nearby suburb. Being fired for cause from your last city manager job doesn't usually put you at the top of the candidate list in a nationwide search. Not exactly a record of success in that position.


Posted: January 8th, 2013 5:31 PM

Maybe its a testament to Oak Park for hiring her in the first place. We know quality.

Oak parker  

Posted: January 8th, 2013 4:30 PM

Looks like Nurse Ratched is running things and to all of you who thinks shes so wonderful...she is a cold, heartless tyrant, and a power hungry loon

OP Transplant  

Posted: January 8th, 2013 3:15 PM

oakparker1984 - Are you not paying attention? A lengthy and expensive search has revealed that she's the best candidate in the entire nation! And she was right here all the time! Clearly this has to be something more than a coincidence, perhaps a miracle? Do you dare question the will of God Himself? (Of course, it could also be run-of-the mill Oak Park political hackery, too.)

HR Exec from Oak Park  

Posted: January 8th, 2013 3:12 PM

This process & it's result has strange written all over it. I find it odd the search firm found only 41 candidates, even in a narrow field such as municipal mgt. Also odd to me is the board found only 1 Illinois candidate for the final 6. Based on the search firm's low (yes, low) fee I guess marginal results were to be expected. In the private (aka real) world, CEO searches command a fee in the 30-40% range. Methinks Slavin didn't really have their heart in this search.

oakparker1984 from OP  

Posted: January 8th, 2013 3:06 PM

Why has the Board not addressed the elephant in the room, which is Ms. Pavlicek's inconsistent performance record? She was fired for cause from a Village Manager position 15 miles down the road. How can that not be part of the conversation? I don't want to accuse the Board of disrespecting our intelligence, but the residents deserve better.

OP Transplant  

Posted: January 8th, 2013 2:40 PM

So we conducted a nationwide search, spent thousands of dollars, and took months longer than anticipated, only to learn that the best possible candidate in the entire US was in the building? Man...what are the odds? Those losers in Downers Grove must feel pretty dumb, firing the best person in the whole country!

OP Resident 947 from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: January 8th, 2013 2:34 PM

@Phil - As such comments are pretty typical and she's had some time in the role on an interim basis, I'd assume that Cara is already fully aware that she's stepping into a village adminstration that has a serious disconnect with the community. If she's not aware of this then she is in way over her head and should run for the door. The confidence of the Trustees means nothing to many in the community. If she's looking to be embraced by Oak Park's residents then there's much work to be done.

Paddy Boy  

Posted: January 8th, 2013 1:53 PM

Why should she return phone calls? Nobody else does these days.


Posted: January 8th, 2013 1:46 PM

Very curious how everyone feels about the fact that our Village Manager is paid roughly the same amount as many of the teachers of our community schools. This isnt to say that the Village Manager is under paid, but rather, that the teachers in this community are OVERPAID. Sad state of affairs in todays world.


Posted: January 8th, 2013 1:45 PM

@Peter--let's see, so the President of the most dysfunctional school district in the area gives praise to the misguided appointment of a clearly unqualified manager of the most dysfunctional village government in the area. Kudos, Peter. YFI.

Phil from Oak Park  

Posted: January 8th, 2013 1:26 PM

I'm surprised and somewhat shocked at the number of negative comments. It is definitely not a good way to greet our new Manager.

Matt on Madison  

Posted: January 8th, 2013 1:12 PM

Ray, your search firm must have given you some pretty crappy candidates for you to choose someone that has never held that position before. I thought the idea of hiring a search firm was to find the most qualified candidate. can yo enlighten us as to how you came to this decision?

Peter Traczyk from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: January 8th, 2013 12:16 PM

I've had a few chances to interact with Cara as a D97 board member and have been very impressed. Her breadth of experience as a Village Manager has been very evident in my dealings with her. She is extremely pragmatic, plain-spoken and confident in her role. It's this last quality that I think is particularly important for Oak Park at this time, as the different roles of the Board and Manager have gotten hazy in practice. While the Board was right to initiate a search, I am not surprised they circled back to Cara and I commend them for it. We have a contested election for Village President this spring, but this hiring choice is (and should be) the more important one for Oak Park.


Posted: January 8th, 2013 12:10 PM

Great to see a woman hold that spot. Long time coming.


Posted: January 8th, 2013 10:42 AM

The Village of Downers Grove must be laughing hysterically at us right now. They fire her and we hire her.

kathryn from oak park  

Posted: January 8th, 2013 10:30 AM

This is not good news for Oak Parkers, but not surprising. How can the Board justify selecting the head of the Village's parking division to fill this critical position when there were candidates with strong experience as village managers? My guess is that this Board, and the VMA overall, desires tight control over the village manager's office and fears having an outsider who can bring fresh ideas to how things are done here.


Posted: January 8th, 2013 10:25 AM

Scammed again by the village board. Waste of tax dollars to consultant to do "search" for new VM candidates. Save it Ray Johnson, nobody is buying your typical response. You deserve each other but the community deserves better. Did the candidate with the most red flags win or were the pickings really slim? Rumor has it that the board is going to waive the residency requirement for her. True?

Anthony R. Shaker from Oak Park, IL  

Posted: January 8th, 2013 9:22 AM

This announcement is a joke. She is the manager of the most dysfunctional parking system in the world. When met with her to complain about misfunctioning of the Holly Court garage operation, she simply responded the garages make the village a lot of money and has 18 different levels of charges. More of the same by the goofs who run this village. Nationwide search - who are you kidding?

Matt on Madison  

Posted: January 8th, 2013 9:18 AM

Had to deal with Cara years ago and she was cold and wouldn't return phone calls. I think I agree with the post earlier that this will end in a Cara vs. Oak Park lawsuit. This was the best you could come up with????

Enuf is Enuf from Oak Park  

Posted: January 8th, 2013 9:09 AM

@RayJohnson ... "The candidate pool was incredibly strong, with several individuals offering various skills that would serve our village well." If you still selected Ms. Pavlicek relative to an "incredibly strong" candidate pool, under what circumstances would you have not selected her?

Keith from Beyond the grave  

Posted: January 8th, 2013 9:07 AM

We just got fooled again...


Posted: January 8th, 2013 9:05 AM

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss...

Business as usual  

Posted: January 8th, 2013 8:40 AM

Everybody loves Lovie Smith, but it was time for the Bears to get a new coach just to shake up the status quo. We should have done the same. I have my doubts anybody can manage the dysfunction in OP so might as well give her a chance. The question is whether we get "interim" Cara or something new.


Posted: January 8th, 2013 7:19 AM

Pathetic. She is a disaster waiting to happen. The Board should be ashamed. This is why the VMA cannot be trusted to make decisions about the future of this Village.

Ray Johnson from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: January 8th, 2013 7:15 AM

@Joakpark: I completely understand your question and am sure others are asking the same thing - why have a national search only to hire the person who was already serving? I wanted a national search and am glad we proceeded with one. It gave me an opportunity to evaluate the skills and competencies of various candidates, which we would not have been able to do without a search. The candidate pool was incredibly strong, with several individuals offering various skills that would serve our village well. The fact that Ms. Pavlicek was selected from such a strong pool of candidates is a testament to her abilities, skill and experience which I believe will serve Oak Park well.

Downers Grove Resident  

Posted: January 8th, 2013 6:36 AM

Don't worry Oak Park, you can refer to Cara as "soon to be ex-village manager" or "Cara P, Plaintiff vs. Village of Oak Park". Wonder why Urbandale Iowa didn't hire her?


Posted: January 8th, 2013 5:14 AM

how many month? how much money? only to get what we already had and what most already didn't want? another feather in the cap of the david pope legacy of the worst ever run board and worst ever village president.


Posted: January 7th, 2013 11:03 PM

Early April Fools?

Bobbie Raymond  

Posted: January 7th, 2013 9:38 PM

correct spelling is disappointment(see my previously posted comment)

Bobbie Raymond from Oak Park  

Posted: January 7th, 2013 9:36 PM

Cara has done a wonderful job as interim manager. She is responsive, intelligent, hard-working and deserves to be chosen as our manager. I think she will be one of our best managers because we know what we are getting....instead of choosing someone from out of the area who looks good on paper but turns out to be a disapointment. Congratulations to Cara -- I wish her all the best and hope she will be with us for a long, long time.

Jim from Oak Park  

Posted: January 7th, 2013 9:07 PM

Pavlicek was fired for cause as Village Manager for Downers Grove in 2010 (by unanimous decision by the village council). She then sued Downers Grove and apparently lost. http://downersgrovechronicle.wordpress.com/2010/01/07/village-settles-lawsuit-with-former-manager-cara-pavlicek/

Gail Moran from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: January 7th, 2013 8:34 PM



Posted: January 7th, 2013 8:28 PM

Hopefully, the employer search contractors were on commission only. Good luck, to Cara.

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