Passing of the Baton

Hal Wilde has been the president of North Central College for nearly 22 years. In his time at the school, endowment and enrollment has reached all-time highs.

Peggy Frank has been President and CEO of Naper Settlement for 33 years – building it to one of the city’s top historical destinations.

And Dave Dial has guided Naperville Police as Chief for the past 22 years.

Combined, they’ve been leaders in Naperville for a daunting 77 years. They’ve all made their impact on the city. And all will be stepping down from their positions this year, leaving room in some very important city roles.

“None of them will be easy to fill,” said Christine Jeffries, Director of Naperville Development Partnership, a group that promotes business interests in the city. Jeffries has worked with Wilde, Frank and Dial many times. “[The new leaders] are replacing some very dynamic people.”

Even though Bob Marshall has spent the last seven years as Assistant City Manager, he still has nearly 30 years of experience beforehand in the police force. He’s now the new Police Chief.

North Central and the Settlement are still searching for replacements for their openings.

Promoting an individual from within an organization may provide some continuity of sorts, but the move doesn’t come without some possible struggles.

“They’re a known quantity, as opposed to a new one,” said Thomas Cavenagh, a professor at North Central, and Director of the Leadership, Ethics and Values program at the school. “And because [someone from within the company] is a known quantity, they may have relationships with people in the organization that are challenges already.”

Hires from outside an organization may have trouble as well because they need to first learn the company and the people in it.

“[They need to find] who the real non-positional leaders might be; how to build good relationships with them; and how to leverage those relationships in such a way that the organization moves forward,” said Cavenagh.

Both Jeffries and Cavenagh agree that being an effective leader means being open to the community. That’s exactly what Wilde has done in his tenure, opening up campus buildings like Wentz Concert Hall and Madden Theatre to community events.

“And at the bottom of it, that’s really what it’s about,” said Jeffries. “It’s how the new person will interact with the community as a whole and what vision they bring.

Earlier in the year, District 203 Superintendent Mark Mitrovich resigned at the end of his three-year contract. Dan Bridges was promoted from within the school district to take his place.

Similarly, Naperville Chamber of Commerce President and CEO John Schmidt resigned earlier this year. The Chamber is still looking for a permanent replacement.

“The Chamber has some work ahead of it,” said Jeffries. “The economy is tough and the business community expects more from a membership organization.”

When they do find a replacement, a new leader shouldn’t waste any time finding their role.

“The single most significant skill on the way in is the capacity to take the temperature of the organization relatively quickly,” said Cavenagh. “[A new leader has to] understand its culture and ethos and make judgments about how quick, and in what direction, you might operation the change.”

No matter who fills the remaining vacant seats, it’s clear that a new era of leadership is underway.


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