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New Joliet city manager gets unanimous approval from council

Rex Robinson | 10/15/2013, 11:24 p.m.
Jim Hock will start his new job as city manager for Joliet on Nov. 12 and already he is coming ...
Outgoing Joliet City Manager Tom Thanas (left) stands next to new City Manager Jim Hock. Photo by Rex Robinson

Jim Hock will start his new job as city manager for Joliet on Nov. 12 and already he is coming up with plans for improving city operations.

The city will soon be in the midst of putting together the 2014 budget and one of Hock’s plans is to tie employee performance evaluations to the budget to help ensure city staff do all they can to turn wish lists into realities.

After spending about a half hour behind closed doors, the city council emerged from a back room Tuesday and unanimously approved the appointment of the 58-year-old Hock. The council also unanimously approved an employment contract with Hock.

“Mr. Hock, welcome to Joliet,” said Councilman John Gerl after voting on the appointment.

Hock will replace current City Manager Tom Thanas who announced plans to resign earlier this past spring.

“I’m very impressed with Jim’s credentials,” Thanas said. “He’s a professional manager with a proven track record of success. I’m sure the city will be in good hands.”

Hock has been working as the community development director for Carpentersville since November 2012 and before that he was city manager for northwest suburban Park Ridge from 2008 until May 2012.

An election in Park Ridge changed the political makeup of the council while Hock was serving in the position, leaving only one from the former administration on the council. That one was Mayor David Schmidt, who was an alderman when Hock was initially hired by the city. Schmidt did not like Hock’s management style, referring to him as a “career bureaucrat.” The differences between the mayor and the new council resulted in Hock being fired.

Some had said Hock failed to meet up to expectations, but Hock said he met all the city’s performance requirements while in the position.

Hock said one thing that attracted him to Joliet was the mix of early development such as the multi-modal regional transportation center construction underway in the downtown, and existing developments.

“There’s a lot of opportunity to attract new business to the city and get some jobs for residents,” Hock said.

Hock will be paid an annual base salary of $185,000, plus benefits as well as a $12,500 relocation allowance. The contract is for three years. Thanas’ current salary is $189,000, plus benefits.

A Michigan native, Hock served as the assistant city manager for Sterling Heights, a suburb of Detroit with a population of 130,410, from 1985 to 1994. He said there are similarities between the two communities. While working for Sterling Heights, Hock prepared the annual city budget, developed a municipal improvement program, implemented interest-based bargaining with unions and established committee for labor/management work practices.

Councilman Larry Hug said he’s excited about Hock’s appointment. “He’s an experienced professional who brings fresh eyes and new ideas,” Hug said. “I’m looking forward to working with him as we move the city forward.”

Bob Beezat with the firm of Voorhees Associates was hired to shepherd the city through the hiring process. Initially, Beezat received 64 resumes and got that number down to 12. Councilwoman Jan Quillman said of the 12 resumes Hock’s really stood out for her. The 12 were then whittled down to three finalists, including Hock, Village Manager Steve Gulden and Joliet native Chris McFadden, an assistant attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice.

“He was always my No. 1 pick,” Quillman said of Hock. “I just thought he would be a great fit for our city. He had been involved in negotiations with unions and he initiated many different programs.”

In the past, Quillman had her disagreements with Thanas, however, she said he will be missed.

“I’m sorry to see Tom go,” Quillman said. “I’ve known Tom for 20 years and he’s been a great city manager.”

Rex Robinson can be reached at (708) 254-1539 or rex@thetimesweekly.com.