Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Picking up the Hammer

Sun Valley hires new city administrator

Express Staff Writer

Sharon Hammer

After nearly a year functioning with two interim city administrators, the city of Sun Valley will have a permanent employee in the position beginning June 23.

At a meeting on Thursday, May 15, the City Council approved Mayor Wayne Willich's selection of Sharon Hammer as the new administrator.

Hammer, who has been working as manager for Oak Park Township, Ill., for the past 10 years, was chosen from 41 applicants, including the five finalists invited to personal interviews.

"This particular woman is dynamite," Willich said.

Hammer, 44, holds a master's degree in public administration as well as a law degree. Before moving into city administration, she worked as chief legal council for Carbondale, Ill. In a phone interview on Monday, Hammer said her experience as both a city administrator and attorney gives her a solid background with the organization of local government, allowing her to focus on the goals set by city officials.

She will earn a base salary of $110,000 annually, in addition to health benefits and a $1,000-per-month housing allowance.

After working in Sun Valley for five months, current interim City Administrator Jerry Osterman will head to his home in Washington at the end of May. However, he said he would be available by phone if needed by the city during the approximately three-week gap until Hammer begins work.

Osterman said his replacement's education, experience and fit for the community won her the support of the council, Planning and Zoning Commission and city staff, all of whom provided input to the mayor.

"I'm very excited about the job," Hammer said. "I came out with my husband, James, for the interview and we absolutely loved the area."

Hammer said she will make a trip to Sun Valley at the beginning of June to search for a house.

An avid climber, Hammer said the outdoor amenities offered in the area were one of the major reasons she was attracted to the job.

"We were looking for something that would allow a change in lifestyle," said Hammer, who summited 14,410-foot Mount Rainier last summer. "However, it was also extremely important to make sure there was a good fit with the mayor and council."

Hammer said that after working in Oak Park, a town of 55,000, for 10 years, it was time for a new challenge.

"There's a little bit of apprehension about leaving a situation in which I'm comfortable and successful, but I'm exciting more than anything," she said. "It will take some time to learn about the community and see how I can help the most."

As for her husband, whom Hammer said is an eclectic mix of attorney, accountant and musician, there is one certainty.

"Oh, he'll be doing something," she said with a laugh.

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