McHenry picks new city administrator

McHENRY – Administrative shake-ups for the cities of McHenry and Woodstock will be taking place next month.

Personnel changes come after McHenry City Administrator Chris Black accepted a job offer earlier this week to be finance director for the city of Rockford.

The McHenry City Council on Thursday approved Mayor Sue Low’s recommendation to hire Derik Morefield as the next city administrator. Morefield, 43, is the deputy city manager for Woodstock.

Earlier this week, Rockford Mayor Larry Morrissey announced Black as his pick to be finance director. Rockford, the third-largest largest city in Illinois, had been searching for a finance director since fall.

Black, a Rockford native and resident, was contacted by the city’s search committee about a month ago and went through interviews with committee members. With the Rockford City Council’s approval, Black is expected to begin his new job in May.

Black worked in Rockford’s finance department as a financial analyst beginning in 1998. He was promoted to central services manager in 1999 and held that position until 2006, when he became McHenry’s finance director. In August 2010, he was named city administrator.

“I really enjoyed my job here and working with the mayor, the City Council and the fine staff of the city,” Black said. “Working for Rockford under the finance department was just a good opportunity ... In the long term, it seems to be the best fit for me personally and professionally.”

He lives in Rockford with his family.

Black, 45, said the decision was a difficult one.

Low said she was “saddened” when she learned over the weekend that McHenry may be losing an “exceptional employee.”

“It’s very bittersweet,” the mayor said. “He’s such a wonderful person and an ethical employee. Everyone thinks so highly of him. I was saddened in the beginning, but I want him to be in a job that makes him happy.”

At Wednesday’s annual “State of McHenry” address, Low did not mention Black’s leaving because “he asked me not to. He didn’t want that to be the focus of the presentation.”

Black will stay on to help the city complete its budget cycle.

Morefield, Black’s successor, was interviewed this week by each of the McHenry City Council aldermen. On Thursday, the council discussed Morefield’s candidacy in a closed session and afterward authorized the mayor to offer the job to Morefield.

“I’m excited,” said Morefield, who resides in Woodstock with his family. “I’m familiar with McHenry. It’s a great municipality, a well-run municipality, and from what I understand the staff and employees are outstanding. I can’t wait to be part of the team.”

The attorney for the city of McHenry is preparing Morefield’s contract. The City Council is expected to vote on contract approval at its next regular meeting, March 19.

Meanwhile, Woodstock officials plan to review the deputy city manager’s position and make any needed updates before starting its hiring process, City Manager Tim Clifton said.

Morefield’s move to McHenry will serve both communities well, Clifton said.

“It will strengthen the professional relationship between the two communities that we have anyways,” he said. “Derik deserves his own town. He knows everything, he knows how to do everything. He’ll be a great city administrator.”

Morefield has 14 years of experience in municipal affairs. He’s been Woodstock’s deputy city manager since 2007. Before that, he served as Woodstock’s director of business development and assistant city manager. Morefield also has led economic development and downtown revitalization initiatives for the city.

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