Do Naperville City Council Members Really Know What Each Department Does

It’s amazing that one day a person can be sitting at home watching reruns of Gilligan’s Island, and then a short time later get elected to the city council with a small plurality of a small percentage of registered voters, and find themselves sitting at the dais making voting decisions for hundreds of thousands of dollars effecting Naperville’s population of over 147,000 residents. It’s a little scary when you think about it. Fortunately, five competent council members can trump four incompetents.

The good news is that the Naperville city council is a competent bunch, and far better than recent councils. However do they really know what they are voting for, and more accurately, do they truly understand what each city department does and how it works. Have any of them taken the time to learn the workings of each department.

In one of my previous careers, the CEO of a very successful retail company started out stocking shelves. At a very young age he wanted to understand how each department in the store worked and how it all came together under one roof. He volunteered to come in on his day off and help in each department; merchandising, hard lines, soft lines, health and beauty, grocery, electronics security, management, etc. He worked his way up to become a store team leader, district manger, regional manager, V.P., President, and ultimately Chairman and CEO. He was an outstanding leader because at each level he learned all he could which enabled him to understand how all the dots connected which provided him with a sound foundation to make wise decisions.

It took time to do that, and council members don’t stay around long enough to follow the same path, however they can be in office for four or eight years. Why not invest one day working with each department head, and one day working in the field to get a real taste for what it’s like including:

  • City Manager
  • City Clerk
  • Finance
  • HR
  • Legal
  • Public Utility – Electric
  • Public Utility – Water
  • Public Works
  • TED (Transportation, Engineering, Development)
  • Fire Department
  • Police Department

Council members can look at it as CE (Continuing Education). Many professions require CE to keep current. Shouldn’t council members be current in understanding how their decisions impact the residents of Naperville and city workers. Watchdog suggests Naperville city council members begin with Naperville’s Police Academy (18 hours), and Naperville’s Fire Academy (12 hours). It would also be a show of support for members the Police and Fire Departments, along with other city departments. Council members wouldn’t be ‘spending’ time learning, they would be investing time understanding.

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