Norm Etling is now “a man of leisure.”
The former Shiloh village engineer had his position eliminated Monday by the village board after a closed door meeting that lasted less than 15 minutes.
Etling said he was talking to another businessman when he received a telephone call from Village Administrator John Marquart on Monday night, saying his job was being eliminated.
“It’s difficult not to have someone in house (overseeing city project’s and design),” Etling said. “It’s almost Biblical. The shepherd owners always looks out better for his sheep than the hired hands.”
Etling has not spoken with current Shiloh Mayor Jim Vernier since his dismissal. Vernier could not be reached for comment.
The Village of Shiloh issued a statement on Wednesday: “In recent years, the village’s professional engineering activities have largely been performed by private engineering firms. Given the very limited amount of professional engineering work performed in-house, the village board voted to eliminate the position of village engineer and offer the incumbent, Norm Etling, a severance package reflective of the village’s appreciation for his dedicated service.”
Etling, 64, said he still woke up early Thursday, as if he were going to work.
But instead of going to work, he went to an eye glass appointment. He also started to go through “all of the junk” he brought home and stored in his garage after he cleaned out his office Tuesday.
“My wife isn’t too pleased with that,” he said and laughed. “She asked if they didn’t have a dumpster (at Village Hall). You could have just thrown it all away. But most of those things were things an old man feels is important, a young person may not value like diagrams and manuals. They use computers. In fact, some of the manuals I have are from when I was in college. It’s more of memory than value. I still stack it somewhere.”
Etling was planning to retire in October.
There were good days in Shiloh, and better days. But I don’t ever remember any bad days. If you can say that after 21 years, that’s a good thing to say.
Norm Etling, former Shiloh village engineer
The village has offered Etling a severance package.
While Etling said he has read the four-page document, he still hasn’t signed it.
He said he hopes to talk with Vernier once his severance agreement is signed and the “dust settles.”
“I have no animosity toward anyone,” he said.
Etling declined to discuss the details of the severance package, which he plans to have reviewed by an attorney.
He said the only thing he knows for certain is that the village engineering position has been eliminated.
“And that’s the position I was hired to fill,” he said.
Shiloh Police Chief Jim Stover said his department is not investigating Etling. He said he found Etling very professional and ethical in the time he has worked with the village.
He said he had no idea why Etling’s job was eliminated. “Who knows my job might be next?” he said.
Going to work in Shiloh
Etling was hired by then Shiloh Mayor Norm Acker as Shiloh’s first engineer in April 1995. To this day, Etling holds Acker and the village board at the time in high regard. He still remembers Acker saying: “He said they couldn’t afford to pay me like they do in Belleville.”
Etling replied: “If you are willing to take a risk on me, I’ll take a risk on you.”
“Those guys gave me the opportunity to come here,” Etling said. “What a wonderful opportunity. Where else can you go and the community grows from 3,200 to over 13,000 in your career?”
“Where can you go from having three businesses to all of these businesses (at Green Mount Crossing Shopping Center).”
For many years, it was like a one-man shop working in Shiloh. But in recent years, the village’s engineering department has added administrative assistant Kathy Wangler and a zoning inspector Mike Campbell. Campbell and Wangler are now expected to be assigned administrative positions. Campbell will also continue with inspections, according to Etling.
Although the motion was to eliminate Etling’s position, Village Clerk Brenda Kern said on Tuesday that by eliminating Etling, the village is eliminating the engineering department.
Etling said he felt sorry for Kern, who will now be answering Etling’s telephone calls and emails.
Etling, who still plans to make his home in Shiloh, said the only thing he regrets is that he will not see all of the projects he helped plan be finished during his tenure including Shiloh Station Road and the proposed Three Springs at Shiloh development.
“The hardest thing to realize is your own mortality,” he said. “I might be able to drive them, but I won’t be there to finish them.”
Etling said he hasn’t decided to do anything since his dismissal other than enjoying some time off.
“The worst decision is a reaction decision,” he said.
Etling said the village was a great place to work.
The worst decision is a reaction decision.
Norm Etling, former Shiloh village engineer
In February, Shiloh hired Megan Fuhler as its public works director with a salary of about $68,000. Etling’s salary was capped at $115,000 for the past two years.
Etling said he did not anticipate his position being eliminated.
“But I knew something had to happen,” he said. “Everybody has to transition sooner or later.”
Etling said there are never enough resources to handle problems.
He said Shiloh had more engineers at one time. But in 2008, there were more than 200 homes being built in the village, which Etling said was an unsustainable growth spurt. Now, there are about 40 homes being built in Shiloh, which Etling said is a “good number.”
“But we kept up,” he said. “And the mayor was great at managing that.”
Etling said he still doesn’t know why he was dismissed by the village or why it’s this close to his retirement.
He said he will help Shiloh during the transition if they ask.
“That’s what professionals do,” he said.
Etling said he doesn’t know what he will do during his retirement. He might fish, but he has to be careful because he has trouble walking after he injured his knee.
He plans to visit his daughter, who lives in Chicago, in July.
“Chicago is a funny town for a little city guy,” he said. “I don’t get along well there. My daughter always says, ‘Dad, don’t talk to everybody on the street. They’ll think you are weird. And don’t pick up any trash. People don’t do that here.’”
He also might start working out at the gym, like his wife, Debbie, wants.
“But I don’t see that happening,” he said.
Etling said he has worked with people in Shiloh and seen some of their kids and grandkids grow up.
“That’s probably what I’m going to miss most,” he said. “But this is just the way it is. There were good days in Shiloh, and better days. But I don’t ever remember any bad days. If you can say that after 21 years, that’s a good thing to say. Everyone worked together and it was very cohesive unit. Trustees were always very supportive. Some times we don’t see the political aspects as well as a politician. So you have to blend those two together.”