Reelection Q & A With Jim Dell'Orco

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Jim Dell’Orco wants a second term on the Saline City Council. To find out why and to help voters decide whether or not to give him one, the Sun Times News conducted the following interview by phone. Dell’Orco’s answers have been edited for length and clarity.

The Sun Times News: Why are you running for reelection?

Jim Dell’Orco: I am running for reelection to continue the momentum that I have been building on in moving the City forward. I feel like we have had a lot of great successes over the last two years during my first term at City Council and I would very much like to see some things through that we have gotten started.

Some important information that came out of the risk mitigation group that I served on is now coming to fruition. We meet now as an advisory panel to staff in that capacity to check off some items as we go along.

We recently got a responsible contractor’s ordinance in place through my place on the Code Review Committee. I’d also like to see that we’re holding ourselves accountable to that, along with some important initiatives and efforts that we’re undertaking with the renovation to the City’s wastewater treatment plant.

TSTN: What business do you still have unfinished?

Dell’Orco: I would say those things that I previously mentioned. And we’re looking at carrying forward the work that we initiated in renovating in place at the City’s wastewater treatment plant.

I want to look at key hiring decisions that we have initiated. Since I’ve ben elected, we’ve hired a new City Manager, a new DPW director and a new City engineer … [as well as] a new treatment plant superintendent. Those were all key, high skilled vacancies that all very much need to be filled.

I want to continue to play a key role in overseeing staff decisions as we execute restoring healthy staffing levels [and] filling key vacancies and start looking at succession planning as we move forward.

TSTN: Explain what you need by “succession planning.”

Dell’Orco: I don’t anticipate anyone leaving abruptly. I’m acutely aware of the fact that we have several senior member levels of staff, with a great degree of institutional knowledge, that are approaching retirement age. As those folks move on to greener pastures and are phased out of the organization, we’re going to have to ensure that their institutional knowledge and skill set is successfully transferred to up and coming personnel, so we’re able to retain a level of efficiency we have. That’s a key concern for me.

TSTN: How has your experience changed your ideology and your approach to politics?

Dell’Orco: I always recognize that serving on the Council is a non-partisan position. I came to it with an open mind, to listen to both sides of the isle. My job is not to levy my own personal views and opinions. My job is to keep my finger on the pulse of the people in the community, and adequately and faithfully represent their voice. I was elected by the people, for the people, and I bring that with me to every Council meeting I attend.

That being said: I have made no attempt to disguise the fact that I lean in the progressive direction; and I have advocated heavily for those kinds of causes. For example, my position in the labor union movement – my position with fair and adequate wages, the restoration of benefits, equal treatment for diversity, equity and inclusion – all of those issues, I’m very passionate about.

TSTN: What has been your biggest accomplishment thus far?

Dell’Orco: The work that I am the most proud of is the responsible contractors ordinance that we managed to get into place through the Code Review Committee. I think that was an uphill battle.

When I first broached the subject with my colleagues, in the Code Review Task Force, I didn’t sense that there was a lot of support of the ordinance. It took some research and doing to bring folks around.

I don’t think by any stretch of the imagination that it was the effort of [myself alone]. I had a lot of support from our new City Manager Colleen O’Toole, who was very much in favor of getting something like this in place. I was also excited to see that Mayor Brian Marl eventually got behind this and thought it was a good way forward for the City.

TSTN: Have you made any mistakes?

Dell’Orco: Ya. I would say that early on I made a concerted effort to read the packet and understand the material as adequately and thoroughly as I could; and focused on rendering my decision on the dais solely on what I had read and do my own independent research. I think that over time I’ve learned that that is just one tool in your tool chest, as to how to come about a fair and equitable decision for everyone involved at the Council.

I no longer arrive with my mind made up on how I’m going to rule on any decision. I do my homework, read my material and come with an ideal. And I allow myself to be allowed to be swayed, and be open minded once I’m there, because I find that I can learn important things with the discourse that occurs among my Council colleagues and participating members of the public.

I now want to steer clear of coming to the Council meetings with predetermined decisions. I’m going to be open minded and be allow myself to be influenced by what transpires through the course of the evening.

TSTN: What makes all of this worth it to you?

Dell’Orco: I feel like at the local level, I’m able to garner and glean immediate gratification from the work I’m able to put in. There’s a lot of hours that goes into preparing myself for the decisions that are made at the dais.

I can see how [those decisions are] playing out in my community and the feedback that I’m getting from the public. Sometimes things are wildly popular and sometimes the decisions I make are unpopular. But I am always trying to base my decisions on what will make the broadest impact on the greatest number of people, as a parent, from day to day.

Image Credit: Jim Dell’Orco.

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