The longtime finance director of Niles has taken a job managing the village park district's finances — an opportunity he says aligns both his interest in sports and local government.
Scot Neukirch resigned from his role with the village in early August, and he has since taken over the position of finance director for the Niles Park District. Former finance director for the district, Tom Elenz, will take over as executive director in early September following the retirement of Joe LoVerde, who also serves as a village trustee.
Neukirch, a Niles native, spent more than a quarter of a century managing finances in the municipal sector. After graduating from Rockford College in 1990, Neukirch landed job with the village as a water billing clerk, working his way up to assistant finance director over the course of 13 years. He left briefly to take a position as finance director for Morton Grove and then returned to Niles where he served as finance director for the past decade.
His vast experience in the field made him a good fit for the role at the park district, Elenz said.
"I was looking for somebody I wasn't going to have to teach how to do deadlines regarding budgets and ordinances. He knows how to do all that," he said.
Neukirch earned $142,000 from the village last year, said Niles Village Manager Steve Vinezeano. Elenz said Neukirch will take home $125,000 annually in his new role and will also be granted the use of a park district-owned vehicle.
Neukirch did not retire from his position at the village, and his retirement benefits are provided through the same pension fund the park district uses — the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund, Vinezeano said.
In his personal life, Neukirch said he enjoys sports and outdoor recreation, which is a big reason why he left his post with the village for a job at the park district.
"It was an opportunity for me to stay in Niles and not have to upset any other aspect of my life you often have to when you change jobs," he said.
Neukirch, who now resides in Arlington Heights, said the new job was another chance to get a behind-the-scenes look at how government operates in his hometown.
Vinezeano said Neukirch was a valuable asset to the village, making it a challenge to replace him.
"When I came in as village manager, I made sure he was sitting next to me," said Vinezeano, who has worked for Niles since 2000. "It was important to me that someone with his knowledge and expertise be my right-hand man."
Vinezeano said the village is finding a replacement. Interim finance director Harry Sakai will lead the department in the meantime.
At the park district, Neukirch will manage a budget that's a fraction of the size of what he handled at the village. He said the overall budget for Niles totals $100 million while the park district's budget comes in about $15 million.
Neukirch said that he's excited, however, about the chance to work on several big projects, including the construction of a new $11 million athletic facility and the $1.5 million renovation of the Tam O'Shanter Golf Course.
The park district job likely will be the last stop in his career, he said.
The district, Neukirch said, "is a cool place and fun for someone like me who is interested in athletics."