[H. Rick Bamman]
When comparing the changes in Lakewood, Serwatka said there really isn't a template because of the experimental nature of the new structure.
Crystal Lake pays about $215,000 in annual wages for its city manager and another $154,000 for its deputy manager/finance director, according to city documents, but the city serves more than 10 times the number of residents. Cary also spends about $220,000 in annual wages for the same positions, serving about 18,000 residents, village documents show.
Fox River Grove, however, spends about $135,000 on its village administrator and $83,000 on its treasurer and finance manager to serve a slightly larger population than Lakewood, according to village documents.
“I want to be at the forefront, where everyone starts looking and saying, ‘Look what Lakewood did,’ ” Serwatka said.
Meister is a 45-year-old certified public accountant, internal auditor, fraud examiner and has worked with Fortune 500 companies for years – and yet she wanted something that was more fulfilling, even if it meant taking a serious pay cut.
When Meister brought her restructuring plan to the board and was brought on temporarily for the chief administrative position, she gave back nearly $11,000 she earned through her consulting deal and asked for it to be used to assist flooding victims.
“I was making good money – it just wasn’t me,” Meister said.
She and Trustee Philip Stephan also have spent time renovating the former village manager’s private office – Meister works from a large cubicle among the rest of the staff – to become a more professional conference room.
One of the first uses for the new community conference room will be for the residential stormwater task force, which will brainstorm and discuss potential solutions for helping Lakewood residents with flooding problems that intensified earlier this summer.
Meister is thinking about calling the room the kitchen table, partly because the conference table quite literally is a large wooden kitchen table from her home. The other reason is because that kitchen table is where she had one of her first conversations with Serwatka when he was campaigning against tax increment financing districts.
Meister said she wants residents to feel welcome and heard, which is why she includes her personal cellphone number on her business card.
“I’m not an executive in an ivory tower that doesn’t want to talk to a resident,” Meister said. “I tell people to call me any time. I’m your neighbor. If we need to do something right away, call me.”
Editor's note: This story has been changed to reflect the correct name of the trustee who helped renovated the former village manager’s private office.