It may be imperceptible to most people in Riverside, but there’s a ton of change in process with respect to village government.
The newly seated president and trustees are perhaps the most visible aspect of that change, but there’s much more taking place behind the scenes. Village Manager Jessica Frances, with a new four-year contract under her belt, has begun a wholesale change of the village hall structure.
A new assistant manager – a first for Riverside – will soon join the team and begin the process of staffing up a building department that’s been short of any permanent leadership since the end of February. With construction season well under way, getting those inspector and planner spots filled is vital.
Matthew Buckley takes over as the director of public safety and emergency management in just over a week, heading up a consolidated police/fire unit, another first for the village.
All of this change follows the departure of two-term President Ben Sells, about whom we’d like to offer a few thoughts.
The past eight years have not been without thorny issues for Riverside. The board has wrestled with and heard plenty from residents about video gambling, allowing retail cannabis businesses, how to improve the village’s government buildings, how to regulate vacation rentals in residential districts, the proposed Des Plaines River floodwall, how to address flooding and the changing nature of Swan Pond Park, overhauling the downtown streetscape and more.
Sells’ disarming personality, ability to listen and reach consensus, and make hard decisions after careful examination of their impact on the community as a whole have made important initiatives possible with the least amount of drama.
And when he or staff’s decisions appeared to be heading in the wrong direction, Sells’ ego didn’t get in the way of stopping and reconsidering.
This is not to say Sells made everyone happy, because some decisions over the past eight years angered residents and business owners. But the fallout was less dramatic, because the decisions weren’t arbitrary. They were backed up with work he often did himself. He’s going to be a tough act to follow.