Tuesday will mark the beginning of my 30th year as town manager of Munster. In 2014, I will have worked in municipal government for 40 years.
I have always believed that public service is a noble calling. That may not be the view of some folks, especially in Lake County. There is a level of satisfaction and pride that one gets from public service that is not found in many professions.
Originally from Chicago Heights, I left in 1969 and graduated from Illinois State University with degrees in Economics and Political Science and Public Administration.
I started as an Illinois Governors Fellow in Springfield in 1974, and accepted a September position in the Normal, Ill., town manager’s office.
It took only a few months for me to realize that working in municipal government was exciting - you had the opportunity to work on many different types of projects and solve different types of problems.
Local government is “government closest to the citizens” and, as a result, those involved see the results of their work and how it benefits the residents. Of course, the opposite is also true when things don’t go as planned.
When I became aware of the Munster town manager opening in 1983, I was excited, as I was familiar with the community and northwest Indiana.
I was impressed by the businesslike approach town officials used to govern. They had long established goals and objectives.
One of Munster's most important documents is a copy of the 1938 Land Use Plan, now hanging in the town hall. I am struck at how closely the plan was followed over the years.
There were a few deviations, like allowing homes to be built backing up to the Little Cal and Hart Ditch. The plan called for large buffer areas that would have allowed for easier maintenance of the levees and shoreline.
The second deviation is the right-of-way for Calumet Avenue and Ridge Road. The plan called for a 120-foot-wide right-of-way, divided medians, and roundabouts. What a difference that would have made for traffic!
I have been fortunate to work with many different elected officials and board and commission members. Although I may not always agree with them on specific issues, I respect their views. The staff’s job is to implement the town council’s decisions and goals as well as operate the town on a day-to-day basis.
During my tenure, the town has achieved many successes involving many people working together, not always agreeing, to achieve the goal and do what is right for the community.
Munster’s greatest assets are its 23,000 citizens. On the whole, they demand and expect high service levels from their government and school systems. Both organizations are challenged with the ever-changing financial climate in Indiana. Our employees take pride in their work. Their goal is to provide these services at the highest level.
I thank you for the honor of being able to serve as your town manager and look forward to what the future holds. My hope is that when I leave, it will be said “he left the town a better place.” If that becomes true, it will be the result of the hard work of many people.