Brookfield welcomes a new village planner to the Community and Economic Development Department this week, but it’ll also see the departure of the department’s director, who is headed to a new job after just eight months here.

At the April 22 meeting of the Brookfield Planning and Zoning Commission, Community Development Director Michael Schwarz announced that Kendra Kuehlem would step into the role of village planner as of April 26, filling a vacancy created by the departure of Elyse Vukelich to Oregon in February.

After the meeting adjourned, Schwarz informed members of the commission that he was leaving the village April 30 to take on a new job, calling his decision to leave a sad and difficult one, because he has enjoyed his tenure in Brookfield.

Schwarz has been hired to be community and economic development director of Frankfort, a village of about 20,000 that straddles Cook and Will counties about 25 miles directly south of Brookfield.

A resident of the southwest suburbs, Schwarz said his new job will present a much shorter commute and keep him closer to family.

“I can’t say enough about the great things going on [in Brookfield],” Schwarz told planning commissioners after their meeting. “You won’t believe some of the projects that are going to be coming shortly, and I’m going to be sad to not be part of them. Whoever is here in the seat, I’ll be reading articles in the paper and I’ll be following everything, because Brookfield’s on the cusp of some really exciting [transit-oriented development] projects very soon.”

Schwarz becomes the second consecutive community development director to leave Brookfield eight months after being hired. He arrived in Brookfield last September after being laid off last June from the city of Joliet, where he had served as director of planning for four years.

He replaced Ross Klicker, who left Brookfield after eight months to become community development director in Wheeling. Both Klicker and Schwarz were veteran city planners with more than 20 years of experience. They both also raised the bar for the village’s Community and Economic Development Department in terms of expertise and experience.

That experience was sought after by other, larger communities. Klicker was recruited for the Wheeling post. While Schwarz didn’t want to get specific about how he learned about his new job, he intimated that he was not actively searching for a job.

Brookfield Village Manager Timothy Wiberg said news of Schwarz’s departure was “frustrating” but that “there’s nothing I can do about market forces and the opportunities out there.”

On April 26, Wiberg announced that instead of hiring an outside consultant to serve as the department’s interim director that job will fall to Assistant Village Manager George Issakoo. The search for Schwarz’s replacement will begin soon.

“It’s an important position, and we’ll get the right person for the job,” Wiberg said.

New planner has Brookfield tie

Kuehlem, the village’s new planner, comes into her new job already familiar with Brookfield.

  From June through August 2017, Kuehlem was an intern in the Community and Economic Development Department shortly after graduating with a bachelor’s degree in urban and regional planning from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

During her time in Brookfield she handled building permit reviews, wrote village communications, familiarized herself with the village’s comprehensive and open space and active transportation plans and completed an exploratory study on a proposed dog park in Ehlert Park.

Kuehlem went on to become associate planner/zoning administrator for the village of Plainfield before landing a job as assistant planner in March 2019 with the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP).