Brookfield village trustees ushered in a new era Aug. 10, voting unanimously to allow Village President Michael Garvey to hire Riccardo Ginex as Brookfield’s new village manager. Ginex will take the reins officially on Sept. 6, replacing Dave Owen, who has been the village’s top administrator since May 2002.
Ginex, who was present at the special meeting of the village board where his hire was announced, is finishing out his contract as the village manager in Downers Grove. In March of this year, Ginex announced his resignation from that position. His last day on the job in that suburb is Sept. 1.
According to his contract with the Village of Brookfield, Ginex will be paid $107,500 annually. That’s a step up for Brookfield, which paid Owen approximately $90,000 per year. However, it’s a pay cut for Ginex, who in 2001 was reportedly hired as Downers Grove’s village manager for $128,000.
Ginex will receive a severance package from Downers Grove that calls for paying him one year’s full salary. His Downers Grove contract also allows Ginex to remain on that village’s health plan, although Brookfield will be responsible for paying its normal employee
premium to that plan.
“He had everything I was looking for,” Garvey said of Ginex’s qualifications. “One of the things I looked at was how Downers Grove was somewhat similar to Brookfield in the sense of sharing issues. Ogden Avenue runs through that village, and there are also issues dealing with Metra and economic development.
“He also has the people skills and personality skills and had such a strong desire for the job. It’s great to see someone of his caliber excited about Brookfield.”
Ginex has spent the past 28 years of his professional career in Downers Grove, first as a police officer and later as an administrator. He began as a patrolman in that village in 1977, was promoted to sergeant in 1986, to lieutenant in 1997 and to chief of police in 2000.
As chief he was responsible for leading a department that had 103 full-time employees and a budget exceeding $10 million, slightly smaller than Brookfield’s village budget.
Ginex received his master’s degree in management in 1992 from National-Louis University in Evanston, attended the FBI National Academy in 1994 and served many roles, including director, of the Suburban Law Enforcement Academy at the College of DuPage from 1994-2000.
He has served as both Downers Grove’s interim village manager and chief of police before being hired to the village manager’s post permanently in 2001. During that time, he has served as the top administrator for the village, which has an annual budget over three times larger than Brookfield’s and employs 350 full- and part-time staffers.
“I spent 28 years with Downers Grove, and in those years I worked my way up from patrol officer to chief,” Ginex said. “I know how a staff member feels in an organization and I know what it takes to be an administrator and how to bring consensus to an organization and bring goals forward.”
Ginex said that early on his energies will be focused on filling key staff positions with respect to code enforcement, economic development and his own assistant, although there is no deadline for filling those spots, according to Garvey.
“[It’ll take] whatever time he thinks is necessary,” Garvey said. “He’ll evaluate the personnel situation and see if we have personnel currently to fill those needs. If not he’ll make replacements or bring in the people he feels are necessary.”
Asked if he had any concerns about stepping into the traditionally partisan political atmosphere of Brookfield, Ginex said that he had worked in politically charged situations previously.
Ginex turned in his resignation in Downers Grove after butting heads with Mayor Brian Krajewski on a variety of issues, including the role of the mayor and village manager in day-to-day operations of the village. Krajewski argued for greater power for the mayor, while diminishing the role of the village manager.
Krajewski refrained from commenting on his relationship with Ginex while Ginex served as manager, saying that he “did a phenomenal job in the police department.”
Krajewski also downplayed the conflicts between him and Ginex, saying that, “While there may have been a perception of friction, it didn’t have anything to do with Rick’s departure. To me, the form of government really doesn’t matter as long as you have the right people in there.”
“I would’ve stayed there for the rest of my career,” Ginex said. “But the political atmosphere was not conducive to moving the organization forward. It was my decision. I knew when it was time to go.”
Garvey said that the division between his role as village president and Ginex’s as village manager are clearly defined in the village’s statutes. As president of the village’s board, Garvey said that while he and the board set the policy, they won’t be involved in village hall’s internal operation.
“The roles are clearly delineated,” Garvey said. “We set the policy and the budget. I view the village manager as the day-to-day administrator and personnel director of the village. He’ll implement the policy and budget decisions the board makes.”
In that respect, Ginex’s view of his role, is in line with Garvey’s assessment.
“The board sets the strategic path for the manager to follow,” Ginex said. “When the lines become blurred, the message becomes blurred. It’s a clearly defined line.”
Meanwhile, Owen’s last day on the job in Brookfield will be Sept. 2. It’s been a roller coaster for the 65-year-old Owen, who came to town originally in 2001 as an interim manager following the election of Bill Russ as village president that year.
Brookfield ended up hiring Mark Isackson as its village manager in November 2001, but his tenure was rocky from the start. In February 2002, Isackson took a leave of absence, and Owen was called in as a consultant to oversee village operations. In May 2002, Owen was formally hired as the full-time village manager.
“I did the best job I could, and there are no ill feelings on my part,” Owen said. “Garvey deserves to have the guy he wants; that’s just a political reality. I wish Brookfield and its residents all the best in the world, and I wish Rick success.”
Owen knows all about political realities. In addition to his position in Brookfield, he’s the fourth-term mayor of South Chicago Heights. As for his future, Owen said he’s unsure whether he wants to return to municipal administration.
His departure from Brookfield will be softened by the severance agreement in his contract, which will pay him six months’ salary.