Karyn Byrne, who has served as the de facto head of the North Riverside Building Department since 2010, has announced she’s leaving the post effective Sept. 1.
Byrne, who is a contract employee, had served as a blight inspector on a contract basis prior to 2010. When Dave Skurkis, the former longtime head of the building department retired that year, officials were looking to cut long-term liabilities, such as pension obligations.
Prior to forming her own company, Code Enforcement Representatives Inc., in 2000, Byrne worked for about a decade for the village of Downers Grove. In addition to winning an inspection contract with North Riverside, Byrne also worked for several years with Riverside. She continues to provide code enforcement services to Woodridge, Western Springs and Willowbrook.
After Skurkis retired, the village approached Byrne about expanding her role in North Riverside and working 20 hours a week as the building department administrator. She supervises two other part-time employees, Michelle Cozzone, who has worked for the department for many years, and Ken Rouleau, the former fire chief who works as a fire inspector for the department.
In her new role, Byrne was no longer simply handling code enforcement, though there was plenty of that to do with a surge of foreclosures following the 2008 real estate crash.
She became fully involved in the planning and review process during a time in which the village saw a boom in commercial development, including the arrival of Costco and development of outlots adjacent to that business.
Byrne was also involved in the planning and review process for new commercial development at the North Riverside Plaza shopping center, the North Riverside Park Mall and a new care facility at the Scottish Home.
“I learned a lot about plan commission and zoning board of appeals hearings,” Byrne said. “I knew enforcement, but I learned a lot about the plan end of it.”
But with construction underway at the fourth and final Costco outlot and the majority of the major development completed, Byrne said it was a good time to step away from the North Riverside job.
“With the 20 hours here, it was hard to keep up with my other work flow,” Byrne said.
As for how the village will replace Byrne, Mayor Hubert Hermanek Jr. said that he’s leaning toward an arrangement that won’t require hiring a new person in a lead role.
“At this point I’d like to be able to keep it in house and expand the tasks of the people we have here,” Hermanek said. “I believe it can be accomplished without hiring a new face.”
That means expanded duties for both Cozzone and Rouleau, though there are limits on the amount of time Rouleau can put in without jeopardizing his firefighter’s pension.
“They’ve been a good team,” Hermanek said. “I’m hoping the transition will be seamless.”
Meanwhile, Byrne said she’d remain open to working with the village on a more limited basis as a contract inspector. Hermanek said he was open to that offer.
“She’s amenable to whatever services she can provide,” he said. “It’s great she’s still willing to be here and help us out as needed.”