LANSING | The village of Lansing is new to the idea of having a professional manager in charge of its government.
J. Wynsma became the first village administrator in September.
Wynsma previously served as village administrator for South Holland for seven years. He is familiar with the position, its duties and responsibilities and its potential for creating a more professional government for a smaller community.
Wynsma said he doubted Lansing would ever consider the change being contemplated by municipalities in Indiana — in part because Illinois law would require a voter referendum if the village were to shift from an administrator to a manager.
The difference between the two titles comes down to hiring. Lansing’s government was structured in such a way officials didn’t have to change anything when they created the village administrator position in 2012.
Under that position, Wynsma makes recommendations for people to be hired to top-ranking positions in municipal government. But Village President Norm Abbott and the Village Board have final say, and can reject his recommendations.
Under a village manager form of government, the manager has final say over the hiring.
Wynsma said he doesn’t see the need for that greater authority over hiring in Lansing government, in large part because he was hired by Abbott and he feels the two largely agree on many issues.
Putting the hiring in the hands of a manager is intended to eliminate the potential for political hiring,.
“They serve as the chief administrative officer for the village,” he said. “There’s not necessarily a world of difference between the two titles in the way they function on a day-to-day basis.”
In Lansing, the existence of a village administrator was an issue that came up during the recently completed election cycle. Donald Sciackitano, the former village trustee who challenged Abbott for village president, had said he did not see the need for the position, and promised to look into the possibility of changing back to a president who serves as the top administrator for Lansing government.
Wynsma said that all administrators face the possibility of being replaced, but it was not an issue he concerned himself with during the campaign.
“I know he wanted to go back to the previous management style ... (but) we did not speak about the future of the position."
“I did my job,” said Wynsma, who said his focus during his seven months on the job in Lansing has been to analyze the way village government has been working to see if there are areas in need of improvement.
“My major task has been an evaluation process,” he said, adding he is looking for ways to improve government operations, services and personnel. Those changes, he said, will be forthcoming later this year.
“Some of the changes will be visible to the public, while others will be more internal,” he said.