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Local News

Search set for new Kendall County Health Department executive director

UPDATED 9 P.M. TUESDAY, MAY 19:

YORKVILLE – The Kendall County Health Department's Board of Health will soon start their search for a new executive director.

The department's health board voted 7-0 to approve the resignation of Dr. Amaal Tokars, executive director for the Kendall County Health Department, effective June 5 during the board's in-person Tuesday, May 19 meeting. They also voted 7-0 to table a motion to name RaeAnn VanGundy, current operations administrator for the department, the new executive director and to set the executive director's annual salary for up to $140,000.

Yorkville Police Chief Jim Jensen, who is also a member of the health board, said the board will open up a search process for the candidate instead of outright approving VanGundy for the position, as was outlined in the meeting agenda.

"We will be doing a 21 day [job] post and the post will hopefully be put out in the next day or two," Jensen said.

The public vote came after board members spent about an hour in executive session.

Dr. John Palmer, president of the health board, said the board felt that they needed to offer the position outside of just VanGundy. He said the board will continue to keep VanGundy in consideration as an eligible candidate for the position.

"Absolutely, we will," Palmer said. "No question."

Health board member Tony Giles was absent from the Tuesday meeting.

Palmer said VanGundy is the only candidate that has applied for the position so far.

Palmer said starting with the agenda item to consider VanGundy was at the advise of the county's state's attorney.

"But as we went through the process tonight, we felt that it wasn't appropriate and that we needed to make it more transparent to our citizens and to our County Board and us, too," Palmer said. "We have to go through the process of making it open to the public."

Board member Christina Cooper said the Board of Health personnel committee will be screening submitted applications and resumes for the position going forward. She said the health board was notified of Tokars' resignation within the last couple of weeks.

"It's been a pretty quick process," Cooper said.

Tokars said the health board agenda had been posted since Friday.

County Board member Matt Prochaska wrote in a Tuesday afternoon email to health board members prior to the meeting that he was made aware of Tokars' resignation on Monday, May 18. He wrote he was surprised to learn the health board already posted an agenda item with respect to hiring someone to replace Tokars.

Following the meeting, Prochaska said he believes VanGundy may be qualified for the position. However, he said, he firmly believes the search should be as open as possible when looking to fill the executive director position.

"My concerns were only process based," Prochaska said.

Prochaska said he was "very happy" to hear the board had tabled the decision to directly appoint VanGundy and proceed with a wider search.

"I think that is in the best interest of the county," Prochaska said.

VanGundy, who has worked for the department for 19 years and has a master's degree in public health from Northern Illinois University, said she plans to get as far as she can in the application process for the executive director position. She said she feels she would be a good candidate who could best represent the residents of Kendall County.

VanGundy said she thinks the health board made a good decision in casting the wider net for Tokars' successor.

"It makes sense to wait and move forward and go through the application process," VanGundy said. "I think it speaks to them and their conscientious ways and that they want to make sure that they do get the best candidate here at the health department. And I support them and I'll support everything that has to happen throughout this transition."

The update comes after Kendall County officials said during the Tuesday, May 19, County Board meeting that Tokars has accepted another position. They said the process to hire a new head of the department will begin soon.

Kendall County Board Chairman Scott Gryder said the position Tokars will be accepting will be great for her, and the county wishes her much success. He said he hopes the Kendall County Board of Health will take its time and be deliberate in the process of finding the next county health department leader.

"During a pandemic, you don’t want to jump in and just kind of make a gut decision as to who could be a successor at a time like this,” Gryder said.

Gryder declined comment on what new position Tokars will be accepting during the County Board meeting after she had left the remote meeting and deferred that comment to Tokars. He said June 5 will be Tokars' last day.

Tokars declined to say what or where the new position she will be accepting is, along with whether or not it'll be within a public agency, and that she is not at liberty to say what her new job will be. When asked why she would not be at liberty to say what her next steps will entail, she said it's a personal choice in not saying where she'll be going next.

"This is not about me," Tokars said. "This is about the health department moving forward."

Kendall County Board members said during the Tuesday meeting that whoever will be taking Tokars' place will have big shoes to fill.

"I'm devastated to lose her, but I know she's going to go on to do many, many great things," Kendall County Board member Elizabeth Flowers said.

Tokars said it's been her pleasure to serve at the health department with a beautiful team and a strong Board of Health since she was appointed in 2012.

"It's been a very wonderful experience for me and I'm very grateful for it," Tokars said.

•áThis story has been updated to include more information from the Tuesday, May 19 in-person Kendall County Health Department Board of Health meeting.

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