The Riverside Village Board voted Jan. 15 to make Jessica Frances the village's permanent manager (Chandler West/Staff Photographer)

Riverside trustees voted unanimously on Jan. 15 to remove the “interim” tag and make Jessica Frances the village’s manager on a permanent basis.

The village board and Frances agreed to a contract that expires following the next election for village president, in May 2017.

“She proved herself,” said Village President Ben Sells of the decision to make Frances the permanent manager after an interim period of a little more than three months. “She’s taken to the position like a fish to water. She’s a natural at it. There was no reason to delay.”

Retroactive to Jan. 1, the contract calls for Frances to be paid $117,000 and to be eligible for annual pay raises or bonuses following a yearly performance evaluation by the village board.

In addition, the village has agreed to pay on an annual basis $4,000 per year into a deferred compensation plan in addition to making its required payments into the village’s pension plan through the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund.

Health insurance benefits are provided in accordance with terms set out for all other employees of the village. Riverside will, however, provide a term life insurance policy and give Frances 20 vacation days and four personal days per year.

All accrued but unused vacation, personal and holiday time along with 50 percent of all accrued but unused sick leave will be paid out to Frances at the time she leaves employment with the village.

In a change from previous village manager employment contracts in Riverside, Frances will not be given a vehicle to use during her time as manager. Instead, the contract calls for Frances to be paid $500 per month as a vehicle allowance and will be reimbursed for mileage related to business use of the vehicle beyond a 25-mile radius of Riverside.

“We looked at comparable communities, and one or the other is a standard part of the village manager’s compensation,” Sells said. “We’ve been trying to get out of the car business.”

The village purchased a Ford Fusion in 2011 for former Village Manager Peter Scalera. That vehicle is now sitting in storage. Sells said the plan is “to rotate that vehicle into our needs” for the village. 

A resident of the northwest suburbs, the 34-year-old Frances has been employed by Riverside since January 2012, when she was hired to be the village’s finance director. She was hired by Scalera, who knew Frances when the two worked together for the village of Glencoe.

“I enjoy the community. It’s a place where everyone chips in,” said Frances. “The volunteer perspective is wonderful. There’s a genuine concern and care for the community.”

When Scalera landed the job as village manager of his hometown, Bloomingdale, last summer, the village board agreed to elevate Frances to interim village manager. At the time, Sells made it clear that Frances was likely to be offered the permanent job eventually.

“I think it is a period just to make sure all parties are happy,” Sells said at the time.

After just a shade more than three months, Sells acted to take off the interim tag. The key now, Sells said, is keeping Frances.

“The hard thing for Riverside is keeping people, especially when someone is young and talented,” he said.

Frances said one of the reasons she wanted to take on the role of village manager in Riverside was the staff she has worked with for the past two years.

“The staff in Riverside never really get the recognition for all their efforts and dedication to serving the community,” Frances said. “We have wonderful staff and are truly lucky. Departments work hard and collaboratively together. No one is in their own silo.”

One of Frances’ first decisions will be to choose a new finance director, since her former post is now vacant. Marco Salinas, a longtime accountant in the finance department, is serving as interim finance director.