Pamela Reece was named the Town of Normal’s next city manager on Tuesday, becoming just the third person to serve in that job and the first woman to hold the position in either Twin City local governments.
Reece will succeed Mark Peterson, who’s been city manager for the past 20 years and is retiring March 30. Reece will start her new job April 2. Her salary and contract is not yet set, town officials said.
During a news conference Tuesday at City Hall, Reece said she only expected to stay a few years when she was first hired by the Town of Normal in 1991. One of the reasons Reece stayed, she said, was the mentorship she received from Peterson and his predecessor, former City Manager Dave Anderson.
“This is an organization with vision and values,” Reece said. “One that recognizes and promotes an environment of service excellence, stressing productivity, integrity, responsibility, dedication, and empathy. Each of these core beliefs are what defines this organization. It’s what makes (the) Town of Normal unique.”
Reece already oversees many parts of town government, including human resources, the fire department, finance, information technology, public works, facilities management, and the city clerk’s office.
“We are fortunate to have someone so highly qualified to manage our municipality now and into the very bright future that we seek,” said Normal Mayor Chris Koos. “The town has only had two city managers in 50 years. That’s a very, very unusual scenario in today’s world, or in the world of 25 years ago. That really says something, and what is says is that the Town of Normal is a special place.”
National Search, Internal Candidate
Reece was one of 49 applicants for the job, a search supported by Gov HR, a recruitment firm hired by the Town of Normal on a $20,000 contract. That search led to a half-dozen finalists, and Reece was the first to be interviewed, town officials said. The Normal Town Council decided not to pursue additional interviews after meeting with Reece.
Gov HR’s nationwide search eventually led the council to a candidate already working in City Hall. Council member Kevin McCarthy on Tuesday defended hiring Gov HR, despite the strong internal candidate.
“Until you go through a process, you don’t know the outcome,” said McCarthy. “Although we had strong confidence in Pam, we felt we owed it to the citizens of the Town of Normal and frankly all the staff and employees of the town, to make sure we had the right person leading the town into the future. I can’t imagine a more pivotal decision for the council. We tend to hang onto our city managers, and we want to find somebody that’s committed. And so we went through the process, and we’re of the unanimous position that we have it. The citizens of the town can rest assured that we did our due diligence on their behalf.”
Reece is the first woman to be city manager in either Normal or Bloomington history. Reece said that distinction had special meaning for her.
“It’s very exciting for the profession. Since I’ve started in 1991, the number of women in leadership roles has grown significantly, and I’m just proud to be part of that group,” Reece said.
Reece will take over in the midst of a challenging budget cycle for the Town of Normal and other municipalities, strained by flattening tax revenues and rising costs. The Town Council met this week to make some preliminary decisions about where to cut, including 25 positions that will be eliminated.
“Yes, there are challenges on the horizon. But with the team we have, and the policymakers we have, we’ll work together to achieve results. There’s much we can do. We have a great plan, and quoting former Mayor Kent Karraker, ‘We plan our work and we work our plan.’ And with that strategy we’ll continue to move forward,” Reece said.
Reece lives in Normal with her husband, former Unit 5 school board member Jay Reece. They have two children attending college. Jay Reece’s mother is former Normal Town Council member Sonja Reece.
Editor's note: GLT General Manager R.C. McBride serves on the Normal Town Council.
Reporter Ryan Denham joined GLT's Sound Ideas on Tuesday to recap Tuesday's announcement.
You can also listen to GLT's full report on Reece's hiring:
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