Aldermen Back Tungare as Chief of Merged Departments

Rita Tungare’s new role as St. Charles Community and Economic Development director faces formal City Council vote Dec. 16.

St. Charles Community Development Director Rita Tungare has been tapped for additional responsibility. With City Council approval, she also would become economic development director. | Credit: Ted Schnell
St. Charles Community Development Director Rita Tungare has been tapped for additional responsibility. With City Council approval, she also would become economic development director. | Credit: Ted Schnell

St. Charles aldermen on Monday night gave their unanimous support to a proposal to merge two city departments under the direction of Community Development Director Rita Tungare.

Formal City Council approval of the change is expected to come Dec. 16, 2013, with a council vote on an ordinance merging the Community Development Department with the Economic Development Department.

The latter was left nearly a shell over the summer with the departure of two of its three staffers. Former Director Chris Aiston retired at the end of July, just weeks after Economic Development Manager Michael Mertes took a position in another community.

The city administration has been pondering its options about the departments since Aiston retired. The issue has become more pressing with the uptick in in development in the area, which will require a coordinated effort both in terms of planning/zoning issues and economic development concerns.

At the same time, Mayor Raymond Rogina noted after Monday night’s meeting of the City Council Planning and Development Committee that the city has saved more than $100,000 this year simply by not filling the two positions.

That, Rogina said, gives the proposal presented to aldermen by City Administrator Mark Koenen both utility — it creates a one-stop shop for community development and economic development issues — and economy with merging the two departments under one leader.

As community development director, Tungare supervises a staff that’s equivalent to 11.5 full-time positions. By contrast, the former economic development director supervised a staff of two. Merging the departments under one director would create a greater efficiency in terms of management.

Koenen introduced the proposed merger and appointment of Tungare as good news. The Economic Development Department as established in St. Charles in 1998, and Koenen told aldermen that in examining the options, the city looked at three alternatives.

Like St. Charles, Geneva has a standalone economic development department. Batavia, on the other hand, farms out its economic development efforts. The third economic development model, Koenen said, combines community and economic development as is done in Wheaton and Arlington Heights.

Koenen said the city’s economic development efforts have a threefold purpose, the first of which is business retention — meeting the needs and supporting the city’s existing businesses. Second is to ensure St. Charles is a community of choice for businesses looking to relocate. That includes negotiating incentives agreements and finding locations that meet the needs of businesses. The final mission of economic development, he said, is to market St. Charles.

The merger, Koenen said, makes sense, because it will create a one-stop shop where new businesses can get information on both planning and zoning issues, as well as economic development issues.

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Elizabeth R December 10, 2013 at 08:47 AM
I question having one person handle everything. Planning and economics are very different specialties, and she has no real economic development experience or connections or networking in that field to draw upon. Saving money is not worth it if we don't have a person working fulltime on contacting and courting business to St. Charles. There is no way one person can truly and effectively have the time to do both duties to their absolute fullest. City Council, PLEASE think hard about this. St. Charles needs an experienced person devoted fulltime to getting businesses to fill and develop our City, not stretch one person too thin who hasn't the background or experience in the field. We need to find an expert with recent turn around experience to get our lagging business climate going again, we do not have years to waste on this or we will look back and regret this move. This isn't about Rita either, I just feel it is too important and too much for any one person to really do effectively.
Bill Page December 10, 2013 at 01:16 PM
Rita is a talented and hard-working person, and I'm sure she'll approach her new duties with the same kind professionalism as she's always shown. Having said that, I have to agree that it's an awful lot to ask of one person. These really are two distinct jobs, each with their own demands and skill sets. And in reality each is a full-time job. It begs the question whether the decision is based on sound reasoning or being penny wise and pound foolish.
Gene Kalley December 10, 2013 at 02:37 PM
Rita is a very good choice and can handle both jobs. She will finally provide some common sense to the city's economic development.
Elizabeth R December 10, 2013 at 03:12 PM
Again it is not about Rita's work ethics or professionalism, it's about the simple fact that even a seasoned person like Chris didn't really get much accomplished when he was here. Surely not enough to warrant his salary. It's not only what you know but also who you know. It's selling and marketing, as well as networking and also getting out of the office to be where needed to get St. Charles' attributes in front of the right people and companies. Even if the City then hires a day to day staff member somewhat trained, can you really get the very best and brightest for a salary around $60-70K? Our economic growth needs action now, we have sat treading water for far too long. A great Economics person will bring results that will more than make up for their salary. I hope if Council goes with this plan that they have a list of goals set and a time frame to achieve so that if attainable goals aren't being reached, they can and will change course quickly.
Kim S December 10, 2013 at 04:53 PM
I have to agree with Elizabeth. This City is in real trouble. We need some new blood who can come in quickly and leverage there relationships to change the course of the ship quickly. Downtown is in dire straights. Two of the schools in the downtown area are less than desirable. Attracting businesses, other than bars or pubs, and the families to support them to the downtown area is critical. That being said I am afraid it may be too late. Let's hope Hoops doesn't make its way back downtown. There is afterall space in the Scotland Yard building as well as another dozen buildings downtown.
Kim S December 10, 2013 at 04:56 PM
Unless of course your vision of downtown is Hoops, the Manor, and "massage" parlors that keep folks "happy".
Lois Lane December 10, 2013 at 05:32 PM
I resent your comments about Hoops! I never saw a group of people more willing to help one another out than the patrons of Hoops. If it wasn't in the form of a benefit, a potluck meal or donations at least they would listen to what each other had to say. And I really don't understand how you could ever clump the Manor in the same sentence as the massage parlor at 64 and 25! How insulting and small minded of you.
Bill Page December 10, 2013 at 09:09 PM
Well, Kim...Lois' comment just goes to show you never know who'll be offended by what. I thought your comment was funny...who knew there are those who mourn the passing of Hoops and are offended by the mere mention of the sainted Manor and a massage parlor in the same sentence! And here I thought you were simply listing three dumps...
Kim S December 11, 2013 at 03:09 AM
Lois, it is a little presumptuous on your part to assume that I was clumping the Manor in the same sentence as the massage parlor at 64 & 25. I was referring to the massage parlors by Jewel on Prairie, Binnys, and by Kinkos on Randall. All relatively new businesses to the west side of our city. From your reaction it sounds like you could use a massage to relax a little. Good thing there are so many choices out there.
Elizabeth R December 13, 2013 at 08:46 AM
I sadly think this once again shows our City's priority is not recovering our economic and business climates and growing our sales tax revenues as quickly as possible. Not searching for a fulltime "proven" person who can get results asap makes no sense. The little $ we will actually save after hiring a staff person under her isn't worth the risk. If this plan fails, one can only blame our City leaders for their decision and not Rita. I am sure she will surely give it her best, but with no real background or expertise in that arena, how can you expect real success? Council members you still have time to rethink this idea before voting it through.
Elizabeth R December 13, 2013 at 10:01 AM
Isn't it way more cost efficient and cheaper for tax payers to find and hire a Great Director who can achieve results rather than possibly having to create another TIF District or impose a sales tax increase or offer tax rebates as have been discussed to get our downtown and East Side corridor going? Have we not learned anything over the past 10 years?
Gene Kalley December 13, 2013 at 10:03 AM
Rita Tungare is an extremely capable and experienced person who can handle the job. Before, we threw city money at developers. The developer of the Costco site got $8 million but Batavia gave the developer of Walmart just $1.5 million. I am sure that Rita will be much more careful with taxpayer money.
Elizabeth R December 13, 2013 at 10:22 AM
But it was I believe Mayor Klinkhammer who actually was the person who courted and got Costco to consider St. Charles. Rita also doesn't vote to approve these packages, it's the Council. She would help negotiate to some extent but still takes guidance from higher levels. It once again sounds like we think we can sit and wait for all these opportunities to come to us instead of being out front making the efforts to show investors and businesses we as a City are actively willing to work with you and want your business. That is why all the surrounding communities have all the commercial development Gene and we don't. They simply wanted it more than we did and now we suffer. And it sounds like we still haven't learned from our passed mistakes. We have almost 1/2 of downtown empty, 1/2 of Tin Cup, almost all of Valley Shopping Center plus many buildings like Rex's and stuff in that area empty. We need action now, a person each and everyday working hard to promote us, find tenants and spark interest. Rita already has her hands full. It was Aiston's specialty and even though past his prime, he basically failed to get anything done while here. We need a younger "hungry" experienced person who has had some turn around experience to come in and work their magic. Just like we found with the new Charlestowne Developers, there are great people out there and that in my mind is exactly what we could find if we only took the time to hunt that person out.


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