For the past four years, Michael Schwarz has overseen the planning initiatives of one of the state’s largest cities. But, as of Sept. 8 he’s the new community development director of Brookfield.
Schwarz, who has more than 20 years of community planning experience, will bring a depth of knowledge to the job, said Brookfield Manager Timothy Wiberg. From 2016 until June of this year, Schwarz was director of planning for the city of Joliet, and he has held top planning positions in places as varied as Homer Glen, Bartlett, Plainfield, Naperville and Davenport, Iowa.
“What impressed me about him was he was able to relay how applicable his experiences in Joliet, Naperville and Plainfield is. The best practices he learned there he wants to bring here.”
Schwarz, 51, was laid off from his post in Joliet, he said, as a result of revenue shortfalls caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. When the state shut most businesses down in March, Joliet, a city of nearly 150,000 people, lost revenue from its three casinos and other sales tax producing businesses.
He led a planning division of about five people, small enough that he remained hands on despite his supervisory role.
“I was not only a manager but a player,” said Schwarz, who described his style as “inclusive.”
“I like working with other people,” he said. “My door is always open.”
While Schwarz acknowledged that most of his career has seen him working in ex-urban municipalities engaged in greenfield development, he has worked in historic communities and ones along the Ogden Avenue corridor, so Brookfield was an attractive opportunity.
“That aspect of Brookfield is attractive in that it has a lot of potential for the kind of redevelopment Wheaton and LaGrange have had,” Schwarz said. “There’s support for reasonable density in proximity to the train stations.”
Schwarz said he was also intrigued by the fact that the village is trying to implement a new comprehensive plan, which indicated an openness on the part of residents and the business community to changes that would help revive the downtown area.
“Brookfield has opportunities, since it’s open to the idea of density, to do some amazing things,” Schwarz said.
Wiberg said Schwarz beat out six other people who interviewed for the position, including two other finalists. He’ll be paid a salary of $112,500, Wiberg said.
Schwarz replaces Ross Klicker, who lasted as Brookfield’s community development director just eight months before leaving to take a similar position in northwest suburban Wheeling.
Like Schwarz, Klicker had an impressive resume and years of experience working on community and economic development initiatives on a scale not normally undertaken in Brookfield.
Klicker made an impact in his brief time with Brookfield. He pushed village officials to consider hiring a marketing agency to promote local businesses – an idea that eventually resulted in the village’s new Brookfield Bucks program, launched late last month.
He also sought and got funding in the 2020 budget for a comprehensive planning study for the Ogden Avenue corridor. Klicker left before the village could select a firm to lead that study, but Wiberg said moving that initiative forward will be on Schwarz’s plate.
“I’d also like to kick start programs in our TIF districts, including our new one [in the village’s downtown], to provide a face-lift and rejuvenation of the downtown area,” Wiberg said.
Wiberg said he would also like Schwarz to continue Klicker’s effort to review the village zoning code and suggest updates to it.
“He’ll have his plate full,” Wiberg said of his new hire.