The Orland Park Village Board’s decision to name a new interim village manager at its meeting on Monday, the first since Mayor Dan McLaughlin’s much-talked-about election loss on April 4, was met with disappointment from his successor, Keith Pekau.
Following an hour-long executive session at the end of the meeting, the board appointed Joe La Margo as interim village manager, replacing Police Chief Tim McCarthy. La Margo had been assistant village manager for the past two years. The board also accepted the resignation of McCarthy from the interim position, which he has held since Paul Grimes left last July for a similar position in McKinney, Texas.
“The chief is really anxious to get back to the police department full-time, especially because there have been three or more retirements (in recent months),” said McLaughlin after the meeting. The board also approved a $10,000 stipend for McCarthy to compensate him for doing double-duty.
The search for a new village manager began when Grimes left, and Trustee Jim Dodge said “we were in advanced discussions with a candidate” before McLaughlin lost his bid for a seventh term to Pekau.
“We were ready to hire the person,” added McLaughlin. But with Pekau now scheduled to be sworn in on May 15, the decision was made to halt the search. It will begin again in May, allowing the new mayor to have input in the search process.
La Margo’s annual salary as interim village manager will be $160,000, the board announced.
“We looked around, and that salary figure is at the low end of what people were getting,” said Trustee Dan Calandriello.
The board also appointed Karie Friling, currently the director of development services for the village, to serve as La Margo’s previous role as interim assistant village manager. Her annual salary will be $116,000.
McLaughlin said the plan is to have another staff member step into her director position, so Friling will not be doing both jobs.
“We’re trying to keep some form of stability, and continuity in the interim. After May 15, we can resume the search for a permanent village manager. It could last three months or six months,” said Dodge.
But the changes didn’t go over too well with Pekau.
“I’m disappointed with the board actions. I shared my concerns with them,” said the mayor-elect, who attended the meeting. He would have liked to have been invited into the executive session also, as an observer.
“Given the fact that the voters have spoken, I thought no changes should have been made until after May 15.” He said that the candidate he suggested for interim assistant village manager met with only two trustees before this decision was made.
“I really think it is a reminder to the people of Orland Park that they need to stay involved,” said Pekau.
When asked if La Margo might end up being hired as village manager, McLaughlin said he would have to apply for the position to be considered. McLaughlin said that with La Margo’s background and experience working with Grimes and McCarthy as assistant village manager, he would be qualified. Dodge said the person Pekau suggested is also welcome to re-apply. In fact, he said, because the whole process is starting over, he hoped anyone who applied or was considered previously could re-apply.
La Margo has served as Orland Park’s assistant village manager since 2015 and the village’s public information officer since 2012. He joined the village staff as deputy village clerk in 2006.
Prior to coming to Orland Park, La Margo was chief deputy director for the Illinois Secretary of State Department of Accounting Revenue. In the Secretary of State’s office, he also was deputy internal auditor and budget liaison to the chief of staff. Previously, he had been deputy director of the Cook County Clerk’s Department of Tax and Real Estate, and he was a budget analyst for the Cook County Bureau of Finance. La Margo has a master’s degree in organizational leadership and public policy from Lewis University and a bachelor’s of business administration in economics from Loyola University.
“I am grateful for the board’s confidence and I look forward to keeping the daily operations of the village running smoothly as we all do our best to serve the Orland Park community. Karie and I have worked together for more than 10 years and we both bring decades of government experience to our interim positions,” said LaMargo in a statement. He and his wife, Melissa, live in Orland Park, with their four children.
Prior to joining the village staff in 2006, Friling, who lives in Orland Park with her husband and four daughters, was economic development director for the city of Peoria. She held several management positions during her 12-year tenure there. As director of development for Orland Park, she is responsible for planning, engineering, building, code enforcement, health, transportation and economic development. Friling has master’s and bachelor’s degrees in public administration.
“I, too, am honored with the board’s confidence,” Friling said. “Joe and I work well together and we are both passionate about Orland Park. We look forward to continuing to follow the board’s directives and doing our absolute best for all of Orland Park.”
Pekau said he is happy to now have a voice in deciding who the next village manager will be, but “I’m only one vote.” He said that generally, the transition between administrations has been going smoothly. He has been busy meeting with board members, department heads and other staff members since being elected.
“I have been open. And I think they have been open with me,” said Pekau.