Fairview planning director resigns after two years

News-DemocratNovember 7, 2013 

After just two years as the director of Land Use, Planning and Community Development, Amber Miller is leaving Fairview Heights to take a job in Northern Illinois.

Miller tendered her resignation to the city on Oct. 21. Her last official day with Fairview Heights is Nov. 15.

She is headed to Crest Hill, a city near Joliet, to become that city's community development director. Crest Hill is about the same size as Fairview Heights, Miller said. Fairview Heights has a population about 17,000.

Miller's two-year contract was renewed in August by the City Council. The council was divided about renewing the contract and Mayor Gail Michell cast the vote that broke the tie. Ward 5 Alderwoman Denise Williams, Ward 1 Alderman Joshua Frawley, Ward 3 Alderman Scott Greenwald, Ward 4 Alderwoman Linda Arnold and Ward 2 Alderman Roger Lowry all voted against renewing the contract. Before the vote, Ward 4 Alderwoman Carol Warner told the council to think hard before voting, and cited the city's reputation as being "toxic" and difficult to work for in a managerial position, both from a "few members of staff and a few members of the City Council." Warner told the council Miller had done a good job in the position and reminded the council that if they failed to renew her contract, the city would be hard-pressed to find someone willing to work in a hostile environment and be as successful as Miller has been in the position.

"There is a lot of really good staff here, but morale is very low," Miller said of the city. "With some support, I think they could really bolster their best asset, which is the staff. Unfortunately, they don't see it that way. There is a lot of really good staff here that really cares."

Miller said she came into the position with a list of things to accomplish for the city, and she completed many, but not all, of those goals.

During her tenure, Miller finished the city's comprehensive plan, started the Lincoln Trail Streetscape Development, revised the development code and finished the chronic nuisance ordinance.

"That was a big thing," she said of the ordinance. "With some of the problem properties in the community, this ordinance will help protect the properties of neighbors of derelict and abandoned homes."

She also revamped some of the permits and re-tooled some of the processes used by the city to help it become more efficient and effective.

"But, we have a lot of processes and procedures that have not been updated in 40 years. They are archaic and not up to what they need to be up to. There is a lot left to do."

Miller was hired after the previous director, Lisa Koerkenmeier, resigned in late 2010. Koerkenmeier served as director for about a year before resigning. Koerkenmeier followed Tim Tolliver whose position was not approved by the City Council in 2009.

The city has begun its search for a new director. The ad for the position can be viewed at www.cofh.org.

Contact reporter Jennifer A. Schaaf at jschaaf@bnd.com or 618-239-2667.

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