McHenry Parks and Rec duties fall to Deputy Administrator Bill Hobson

McHENRY – The city of McHenry won’t have a new director of its Parks and Recreation Department.

Instead, the city continues to consolidate positions, adding the director’s responsibilities to now-Deputy Administrator Bill Hobson’s plate and deciding to promote finance and accounting manager Carolyn Lynch to be its finance director without filling her previous position.

Since being hired last year, City Administrator Derik Morefield has been evaluating the city’s organization and employees’ roles.

“Part of the reason I think I was brought to this position was, besides experience, was as a change agent, to look at the organization from an outside view,” Morefield said.

Morefield replaced Chris Black, who was the city’s finance director before becoming city administrator. When Black became city administrator, he kept the finance director responsibilities and did not fill the position.

Morefield does not have a finance background, and so when he was hired, Lynch took over many of the finance director’s duties. A year later, Morefield recommended her for promotion instead of the elimination of the position or the hiring of someone new.

With Parks and Recreation Director Pete Merkel’s retirement, Morefield also decided to reevaluate that position, ultimately deciding to go with consolidation.

Hobson had overseen and served as a liaison for the Parks and Recreation Department – as well as information technology, support services, buildings and grounds, downtown maintenance and special events – responsibilities he’s picked up over the years.

It made sense, Morefield said, to give Hobson direct supervision of the Parks and Recreation Department, especially with the special events planning he does.

In all, he now oversees about 20 part-time and full-time city employees.

Hobson, a McHenry native, started with the city mowing, taking out garbage and just helping out over summers during his college years, he said.

After he graduated from Northern Illinois University with a degree in kinesiology and a minor in sports medicine, he got an internship with the McHenry Parks Department. When that internship ended, he worked in the Public Works Department as he looked for a job.

He found a position with a parks department in Fort Worth, Texas, and managed its adult athletic leagues for three years, he said. He wanted to come back, though, and when an opportunity came up, he took advantage of it.

Hobson sees his latest role as a natural continuation.

“I think it’s really just seeing the problem and finding the best, most efficient way to solve that,” Hobson said. “It’s breaking it down to its simplest form.”

The consolidation of roles should not affect the services provided by the city, Morefield said, adding that before the economic downturn, the city had to accommodate a quickly growing community and had to staff accordingly.

That’s not the situation the city is in anymore, which means positions can be cut – 24 full-time positions have been eliminated since the downturn – without affecting services, he said.

Morefield doesn’t plan on bringing back all those positions if everything turns around, in part because he doesn’t expect things to return to the way it was during the boom years but also because his management style places more of a focus on empowering direct service employees.

If he needed to hire, he would hire those types of employees – including maintenance workers, police officers and recreation programmers – not the higher levels, he said.

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