BOURBONNAIS — In her senior year at Bradley-Bourbonnais Community High School, Tara Latz loaded her schedule with mandatory elective classes to meet her graduation requirements.
As a math enthusiast, she signed up for an accounting class with John Tingley. That class unexpectedly began a journey to becoming the village of Bourbonnais’ new finance director.
“Senior year is more of an elective-type year, so I took an accounting class,” recalled Latz, who graduated from BBCHS in 2005. “I really enjoyed it. I’ve always liked math. But after that class, I decided to give accounting a try in college.
“I am a detail-oriented person. I like the idea of debits and credits, how money flows from one account to another and how expenses turn into profits. It’s all very interesting to me.”
Latz received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in accounting through a five-year program at Illinois State University.
The 32-year-old, who lives in Bourbonnais with her husband and 2-year-old son, joined the village five years ago as a staff accountant. Then, she became an accounting supervisor and then the assistant finance director.
On Monday, she officially took over as the village’s finance director after Mike Wolf retired. Wolf, who served 11 years as the village’s finance director, literally passed his cape on to his mentee during Monday night’s village board meeting.
“When Tara came in, she had all the professional experience I had. The only thing she didn’t have was the 30 years of management,” Wolf said. “Tara is smart, and she knows the vision of the village. I’m sure that five years from now, everyone will be wondering why I didn’t retire sooner.”
Latz takes over the village’s financial reins at a busy time. The village is preparing to develop a 1,200-acre business and industrial park near the Interstate 57 interchange at Bourbonnais Parkway, which local officials consider the future economic engine of Kankakee County.
“We have a lot of good things coming to Bourbonnais,” said Latz, who was a kid when officials started planning the interchange area in the 1990s. “We have development coming here. We have that interchange that just opened a year ago. We have the Gas ‘N Wash that is coming up on the corner near the interchange.
“In the coming years, we will see more development in that area. So, we are a growing community. Our population is growing. That is all very good for the village.”
As finance director, Latz will manage a general fund budget that is usually between $10 million and $11 million. The village’s budget has been higher in recent years because of a $12 million sewer interceptor project that connects the I-57 interchange to the Kankakee River Metropolitan Agency’s wastewater treatment facility.
Latz plans to continue Wolf’s work.
“Mike Wolf has been an incredible mentor to me,” Latz said. “He has been the best boss I have ever had. He has taught me a lot about how to approach meetings, prepare and communicate with the board. I’m just looking forward to taking everything he has taught me and implementing that now.”