As good as he was as Riverside’s village manager these past five years, it might be overstating it to talk about Peter Scalera’s legacy. Unless you also consider the appointment Monday of Jessica Frances, the village’s finance director and a protégé of Scalera’s, as the interim and likely permanent replacement for Scalera.
It doesn’t happen often that a community promotes a manager from within. But in this case, the village president and board have decided to forego any sort of search for a replacement and to turn to Frances, who has been with the village only since early 2012. Even while appending the “interim” title to her nameplate, this board has given both Frances and Scalera a major vote of confidence.
Scalera brought Frances to Riverside having worked with her for five years when both were assistants in the North Shore’s Glencoe. In her time here she has impressed both with honors received and, more notably, with Riverside’s rising bond rating.
We’re fans of this move and here’s why. There is a huge learning curve for any incoming manager. Six months to a year is our experience of how long it takes for a good hire to start adding value to a community. As finance director, Frances already has the broad and detailed knowledge of all aspects of Riverside’s budgets, and the judgments which led to creating those budgets. Further, there are sometimes bad hires when it comes to such critical posts. A candidate can have an exemplary resume, great testimonials and strong interviews and still turn out wrong. Conflicts with the elected officials, unexpected personality traits that make for a bad fit, second thoughts about the move which brought a manager and their family to a new community can all lead to dysfunction. In hiring a known quantity, a person they have already learned to work with and to trust, this village board is ready to move ahead.
And that’s where we get to the legacy that Pete Scalera has built over five quick years. In hiring his protégé, the board is largely ratifying the agenda that Scalera helped craft. We credit Scalera for arriving in town just as the village government entered a period of real and invented turbulence. The financial problems exacerbated by the Great Recession were real and profound. And Scalera worked intently to bring solutions, sometimes through hard choices. Much of the drama created by Mike Gorman, the former village president, and his Community Alliance Party allies, was nonsense that could have been avoided. Scalera was remarkably patient in those challenging years and deserves the community’s respect for being a steady hand and a willing ear, as those years slowly passed.
Now Scalera is off to manage his home town of Bloomingdale, another not very typical occurrence. We wish him well.