Riverside Village Manager Jessica Frances (FILE)

The agenda for the newly constituted Riverside Village Board was a brief one after the trustees were sworn into office on May 6, but the board’s first official act was a significant one.

Trustees voted unanimously to extend the village’s contract with Village Manager Jessica Frances for four more years and raising her salary by 12.5 percent for the second straight year.

Effective May 20, Frances will be paid $190,000 annually with annual cost of living increases of 2.5 percent per year built into the contact, which expires in May 2025, with the end of President Joseph Ballerine’s term. By the final year of the contract, Frances will be paid $209,724 a year.

“I think she deserves it, because she is the best village manager anywhere,” said outgoing Village President Ben Sells in a phone interview with the Landmark on May 6, his final day in office. “I’ve had the opportunity to interact with a lot of mayors, presidents and administrators, and Jessica has a skills set that’s head and shoulders above the next person.”

The raises Frances, 40, has received from the village board over the past three years now puts the Riverside manager in line with the more highly paid managers and administrators in the area after lagging behind many of them for several years.

As recently as January 2018, Frances was paid $140,000 in annual salary, but her pay rate began accelerating in late 2019 when the village board amended her contract to increase her pay three times between Nov. 1, 2019 and Jan. 1, 2021 from $149,971 to $170,865.

The raise moves Frances’ salary above that of Brookfield Village Manager Timothy Wiberg ($183,750) and former manager Riccardo Ginex, who makes $187,460 as village manager of Oak Brook.

A survey of nearby communities done by the Landmark shows that Frances will be paid less than Oak Park Village Manager Cara Pavlicek ($206,378). River Forest Village Administrator Eric Palm, who left that job in February to be village manager of Hofmann Estates had been paid $191,742.

In addition to the raise in base salary, the village has increased the amount it is paying in annual deferred compensation to Frances from $8,500 to $15,000 and has increased the amount of paid vacation per year to five weeks from four. The contract also calls for Frances to receive $500 per month for a vehicle allowance.  

Sells said Frances’ background as a finance director makes her even more attractive as a candidate for top administrative positions. He said she has been recruited for similar positions for more money in recent years.

“If we hope to keep her, she has to be paid at a level that she would get somewhere else,” Sells said. “It’s really important to send her a message of the confidence and trust we have in her abilities.”

Frances was hired as Riverside’s finance director in 2012. By August 2014 she had been appointed interim village manager and was named to the job on a permanent basis in January 2015 at a salary of $117,500.

Earlier this year, Frances announced a sweeping reorganization of village hall, combining the police and fire departments under the direction of Fire Chief Matthew Buckley, who takes over officially as director of public safety and emergency management on May 20, the same day Frances’ new contract kicks in.

Frances also eliminated the position of community development director, placing the building department under the direction of an assistant village manager, a position that’s new to Riverside, and hiring a professional village planner.