Leadership in Tazewell County

by David Zimmerman, Tazewell County Board

“The function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers.” —Ralph Nader

Although Mr. Nader and myself are poles apart when it comes to political philosophy, his statement rings true and has helped shape my attitudes toward leadership. Leaders are essential to success in every organization, and Tazewell County is no exception. In fact, every employee who works for Tazewell County is a leader, with opportunities each day to demonstrate that leadership through their work.

Being a leader in a county form of government presents some unique challenges, but when done correctly, I believe it is one of the most effective. All of our countywide elected officials have internal control over their offices. In other words, the county board has no authority to tell them how they should lead and run their departments, aside from passing their respective budgets. Therefore, in order to make the most effective decisions, consensus needs to be achieved. This consensus building by elected officials is a way we demonstrate and model leadership to our constituents.      

Leadership in Tazewell County can also be shown collectively through our active participation in many of the regional initiatives and boards. One current example is the Tri-County Regional Planning Commission, which is now under the chairmanship of Tazewell County Board member Sue Sundell. After several years of turmoil, Sue’s steady, firm and impartial leadership is leading the organization back to its core purpose and re-establishing the respect it had for many years.

County Board Vice-Chairman Tim Neuhauser is another excellent example of someone who saw a regional challenge and helped lead central Illinois on the road to success. As many know, the Economic Development Council has struggled for a couple of years now. Mr. Neuhauser’s engagement in the process led to his being appointed secretary/treasurer of the Focus Forward Central Illinois initiative, and he has provided the business and political acumen necessary to get things done for the entire region.

Tazewell County Emergency Management Director Dawn Cook has excelled in countywide leadership this past year as she coordinated disaster recovery efforts from the devastating tornados that ripped through our area. Even before the tornados struck, Dawn and her team were planning for events such as this—and how we would respond. Good leaders are able to anticipate situations and react when those events occur. I believe Dawn and the entire EMA staff provided the necessary leadership and direction to avert further devastation after the tornado.  

The number of employees within Tazewell County that can be cited for demonstrating leadership are innumerable, but we do try to recognize those individuals through our employee rating system. Higher ratings translate into larger raises, which usually end up paying for themselves. This is one small way for us to recognize each person who shows their leadership.

In Tazewell County, we like to think we encourage leadership in every individual. In describing our employees, I think Teddy Roosevelt said it best when he stated, “The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it.” iBi

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