The Transformation of Lakewood's Village Administration
Taking the Power Back
The quite literal transformation of Lakewood's Village Administration began with the amendment of key ordinances pertaining to key village positions - including the hiring, firing and direction of our Village Manager, Chief of Police and Finance Director, was an important step in restoring accountability within our village administration and controlling administrative costs within our village.
Under previous ordinances, Lakewood's Village Manager was given sole authority and discretion in the hiring, firing and direction of Lakewood's Chief of Police and Finance Director - and, although Village Code did not provide for it, Lakewood also employed a full time Deputy Manager. Under these ordinances, the village board had no authority and no direction was required by the board.
In June, village president, Paul Serwatka proposed the amendment of these key ordinances. The board’s approval of these ordinance amendments brought about three important changes:
1. Hiring, Firing and Direction of our Chief of Police and Finance Director would now be conferred upon the 7 elected members of the Village Board with the President making a recommendation and the board of trustees providing Advice and Consent via their vote.
2. Eliminating the position of Deputy Manager
3. Consolidating the positions of Village Manager and Finance Director to the singular position of Chief Administrative Officer.
These ordinances, as amended, return a tremendous amount of control to the residents and greatly help to restore accountability within the village administration - paving the way for the, quite literal, transformation of Lakewood's village administration.
The Transformation Ensues
The amendment of these key ordinances, the restructuring of these key positions, and the creation of this new Chief Administrative Officer “CAO” position was admittedly a somewhat unorthodox approach to municipal government, embarking into somewhat uncharted territory.
Knowing this, certain challenges were to be expected - none more challenging than finding the right CAO, capable of not only the multi-faceted skills of managing our village, but also the capability of handling village finances, creating & implementing budgets, levying property taxes, etc.
This over-all restructuring, if successful, would bring a quite substantial savings in administrative costs for our village - with no cut or reduction in services.
For this new administrative structure to be a success, it was imperative that our new CAO possess; a strong personality, as well as a high level of both managerial and financial skills, and experience in creating and implementing budgets and setting tax levies - and most importantly, to me - was having a “reform mindset” and the willingness to begin the daunting task of Zero Based Budgeting as we looked to create efficiencies and reduce redundancies.
Lakewood's New "Captain" Takes the Helm
After a brief “trial and error” period, followed by a two-month search for the right leader, on November 14th, President, Paul Serwatka recommended, and the board approved, the hiring of Lakewood’s new Chief Administrative Officer.
President Serwatka spoke publicly of this, stating:
"Ms. Smith offered a somewhat atypical and intriguing combination of public sector experience as well as private sector & entrepreneurial experience with particularly notable experience in what I feel are some critical elements that have been missing from our village administration – and again, most importantly to me – she demonstrated a “reform mindset” and a sincere understanding of the need for all bodies of government to really begin to control spending, to work efficiently, and to tax residents only as necessary."
In the weeks following, President Serwatka, and Lakewood's new CAO, Ms. Smith were able to successfully propose a 10% reduction in the village Property Tax Levy. This was never before achieved in Lakewood's history.
And, important to note - This entire 10% tax reduction was been made possible through; the restructuring of village administration, eliminating redundancies and creating efficiencies. NO services were cut or reduced.
This achievement exemplified the very real transformation that has taken place in Lakewood's Village Administration.