GENEVA – Mary McKittrick, Geneva's city administrator, said her job is to make sure government is running as smoothly as possible.
She said her position as city administrator is one that often is misunderstood. While elected officials are the visionaries, she and her staff work to make sure policies are being implemented as they were intended.
She also oversees all operations, supervises department heads, acts as the city's budget officer and assists the mayor and city council in developing public policy.
McKittrick started her career in local government in 1985, when she was the first woman to be elected as an Oswego Village trustee. She was later appointed as the first village administrator there in 1991.
Her career in Geneva started in 1999, when she served as assistant city administrator. She was appointed to her current position in 2008.
McKittrick, who had been a small business owner before working in government, went back to school part-time as an adult student when she decided to move her career in a different direction. Juggling a career and raising four children, she said it took her 11 years to earn enough credentials, including a master's degree in public administration, to serve as a city administrator.
"I would not do anything different," she said. "It has been a wonderful career. I couldn't love a career any more than I love this one."
McKittrick said city administration remains a male-dominated field, where women are still "few and far between." She said the required credentials make the career very competitive, and she said she's proud of what she has accomplished so far.
"Hopefully I've set a positive example for other female administrators," she said.
Having served as an elected official and a city staff member, as well as growing up in a family that ran small businesses, McKittrick said those experiences have helped her throughout her career in city administration.
To help aid newly elected officials, McKittrick gives them reading materials about Sunshine Laws, conflicts of interest and zoning. She also teaches a leadership course at Waubonsee Community College to help elected officials learn about local government and strategic planning.
Most elected officials, including the mayor, are either retired or still work full-time. She said she was in their shoes once and knows from her own experience that being informed about the Open Meetings Act and government ethics, for example, helps ensure that everyone is on the same page.
"We have elections every two years," she said. "Theoretically, the composition of your leadership changes every two years. That lends itself to inconsistencies."
One accomplishment of which she said she's very proud,is a student government program for high school students, now n its 12th year. Through job-shadowing and a mock city council meeting, the program is aimed to help students understand how local government works, and learn more about how each city department functions.
McKittrick said she would encourage anyone to consider a career in public administration because it's both challenging and rewarding.
"If you're going to succeed in this career, you have to be passionate about it," she said. "Most people I know that do it love what they do."