KANKAKEE — There will be several familiar faces in the leadership structure under Kankakee Mayor-elect Chris Curtis, but some of those people will be in new places.
As the Curtis administration is set to take office next week, the soon-to-be-former 6th Ward alderman has released some of the key figures who will be charged with guiding departments.
“This has been an extremely difficult process,” Curtis said of filling out department leadership posts. “Three weeks [from Election Day to present] goes by quickly. I certainly didn’t want to make any rash decisions. It’s important to take time and get things right.
“... But I feel we got the backbone in place so we can hit the ground running.”
The appointments will be brought to and voted on Monday by the newly seated Kankakee City Council.
Police: Lt. Robin Passwater will be promoted to police chief. Passwater will replace Chief Frank Kosman, who served in the role for two years.
Passwater, a member of the department since August 1989, has previously served as the city’s top cop. From April 2017 to June 1, 2017, he served as acting chief following the retirement of then-Chief Larry Regnier. Passwater resigned from the acting role which led to the appointment of acting Chief Price Dumas.
Fire: Capt. Bryan LaRoche, 46, a member of the department since April 2002, has been named fire chief, replacing four-year Chief Damon Schuldt.
A 1992 graduate of Bishop McNamara Catholic High School, LaRoche was promoted to captain in 2014. He has been the department’s training officer the past five years. He earned a master’s degree in fire service and homeland security management from Southern Illinois University in 2013.
Code Enforcement: Tomora Nelson, code official for the past four years, will remain in the position.
Comptroller: Elizabeth Kubal, of Bourbonnais, has been the city comptroller since 2013 and she will remain in her role. She was hired during Mayor Nina Epstein’s administration to replace Jim Spice after his retirement.
Environmental services: Pete Schiel, superintendent. Schiel served as interim director in May 2018 following the retirement of then-superintendent Richard Simms. A short time later the interim tag was removed from his title.
Human resources: Carolyn Croswell, the city’s former human resources director from January through June 2018, will be returning to her previous role. James Ellexson, the city human resources director since 2018, will not be retained.
Croswell served with the city for six months before taking a similar position with the Country Club Hills administration. Croswell lives in Matteson.
“A lot of people spoke very highly of her,” Curtis said. “I had a great rapport with her. A lot of people enjoyed working with her.”
Economic & Community Development: Barbi Brewer-Watson, a director of the department since April 2019 and the former director of the Kankakee County Chamber of Commerce, will remain in place.
Engineer: To be determined. Piggush Engineering, Inc., the Bourbonnais-based engineering firm for the city since May 2017, currently remains in place.
Planning: To be determined. Teska Associates, Inc., the Evanston-based planning firm for the city since May 2017, currently remains in place.
Legal: The city has hired the Joliet law firm of Spesia & Taylor, replacing Odelson & Sterk, Ltd., the Evergreen Park law firm which has represented the city for the past four years.
Spesia & Taylor provide legal counsel locally for Bradley and Grant Park. Jeff Taylor of the firm will be on hand at Monday’s city council meeting, Curtis said.
“We hope to keep our legal costs under $300,000. Our legal expenses have been well over $400,000,” he said.
Curtis noted he looked at three law firms and interviewed two.