By Bob Uphues
After almost exactly one year on the job, Brookfield Public Works Director Amy Wagner informed Village President Kit Ketchmark that she will be resigning effective Sept. 21 in order to take a new job in the private sector.
Ketchmark said Wagner announced her intention to leave during a meeting on Sept. 4.
"It was very much a surprise," said Ketchmark, who has now seen some significant staff turnover since early this year with the departures of the village manager, fire chief, village planner and two longtime recreation department staff.
In recent months, village has hired its first recreation director since 2003 and a new fire chief, while a new manager was appointed on Sept. 10. Exactly how or when the village will replace the planner and public works director is not clear at this time.
Brookfield used the services of a firm called GovHR in its last search for a public works director, which resulted in Wagner's hire in September 2017. According to Ketchmark, GovHR guaranteed its search for two years and Brookfield still has a list of applicants from that process.
Ketchmark said GovHR's guarantee stated that if anyone hired through their process left before two years, a new search can be conducted for expenses only.
Wagner is leaving to join the engineering firm Clark Dietz Inc., a private company that does engineering and transportation consulting for municipalities and other sectors.
According to Wagner, she had interviewed with the company in 2017 and had been offered a position to manage a group for them in southern Indiana, but she turned the job down due to the disruption such a move would cause her family.
The company reportedly reached out to her again recently with an offer for her to lead the firm's municipal consulting team at their office in Oakbrook Terrace.
"I think it'll be a new challenge to problem-solve for multiple municipalities," said Wagner, who worked as an engineer in the private sector for eight years before embarking on a 15-year career in the public sector in Burr Ridge, Lockport and Brookfield.
Wagner said she is looking forward to working with a team of professional engineers and also stated she was happy to be leaving behind the stress that comes with a public sector job, including the uncertainty that goes along with possible changes in political leadership.
"I've been in the public sector for 15 years, and the stress that goes along with the public sector, especially around election time, is a lot," she said.
The next election in Brookfield, which will result in seating three village trustees, is next spring. During the last election in 2017, the Public Works Department was in the midst of the political battle between Ketchmark, the incumbent, and a challenger, Roberto Garcia, who made labor-management unrest within the department a signature issue of his campaign.
The public works director at the time, Kenneth Blaauw, was terminated from the job two weeks after the election. He had been on the job for less than two years.
When Wagner was hired in September 2017, then-Village Manager Keith Sbiral touted her engineering background, along with planning, budgeting and staff management experience.
"I think the department is more stabilized now," said Wagner, who said the department's foremen, staff as well as the village board were "great to work with."
"There's better communication between management and staff," Wagner added. "I think I'm leaving it better than I found it."
Perhaps Wagner's signature contribution to the village came early this year when she requested the village do a water system leak-detection survey after the Illinois Department of Natural Resources reported that almost 30 percent of the water delivered to the village by the Brookfield-North Riverside Water Commission was unaccounted for.
The leak survey resulted in a number of emergency repairs, still ongoing, to eliminate the loss of roughly 200 million gallons of water in 2017.
Ketchmark said he was pleased with Wagner's performance during her relatively brief run in Brookfield.
"I think she's done a real good job here," Ketchmark said. "She was a calming influence and took a very professional approach to things. We're going to miss her."