NORMAL — Pam Reece will make history as Normal's first female city manager, but she intends to put her own stamp on the role, "and not be Mark Peterson's replacement."
“I think it's very exciting for the profession," said Reece, 53. "Since I started in 1991, the number of women in leadership roles has grown significantly."
Reece was chosen from among 49 applicants to become the town's third city manager in 50 years, said Mayor Chris Koos at a news conference Tuesday morning in the council chambers at Uptown Station.
”“We had several outstanding candidates, but we were unanimously agreed,” said Koos. “Ms. Reece stood apart from and above the rest in experience and a demonstrated ability to maximize the resources of our community and to face any future challenges.”
Council member Kathleen Lorenz agreed.
“Pam has been very, very involved more behind the scenes on the budget, finance … and also has been the department director of human resources and she has been instrumental in negotiations with our police and fire unions," said Lorenz.
Reece, retiring Normal City Manager Peterson's second-in-command, will take over his job, just as Peterson did when he succeeded then-City Manager Dave Anderson in 1998.
After nearly two decades at the helm, Peterson, 59, announced in August he planned to retire at the end of March. She will take office April 1.
Koos said Reece's salary has not been determined. Peterson's current salary is $189,405.
Reece, who grew up in Traverse City, Mich., started working for Normal soon after receiving her master's degree in public administration in 1991. She was named assistant to the city manager in 1994 and assistant city manager in May 1998. She became deputy city manager in 2010.
“It's about time I got out of the way to give her a chance,” said Peterson. "She's been ready for a long time."
“As I step into this role I will just be trying to make it my own and not be Mark Peterson's replacement,” said Reece. “We have different strategies and different styles. I think my relationship with the leadership team and the council will set the path.”
When Anderson retired after 29 years as city manager, both Peterson and Reece applied to succeed him.
“When they selected me, my first duty was to ask her to be my assistant city manager, which she fortunately accepted," said Peterson. "She has been a big part of my success."
Council member Kevin McCarthy said hiring Northbrook-based GovHR USA at $20,000 in September to assist in the search for Peterson's successor was necessary.
“Until you go through the process you don't know the outcome," said McCarthy. "Although we had strong confidence in Pam we thought we owed it to the citizens of the town of Normal and, frankly all of the staff ... that we had the right person leading the city in the future."
Reece will step into her new leadership role as the city undertakes closing a $4.25 million gap in its $102.5 million budget.
“I think the most immediate challenges facing the organization is economic development and the revenue side of things, and maybe changing the paradigm on how we fund services," said Reece.
Reece was introduced to the man who would become her husband, attorney Jay Reece, by his mother, Sonja Reece, who was a Normal council member at the time. The couple has two children.
Reece is currently on the boards of the United Way of McLean County and the Boys & Girls Club of Bloomington-Normal, and a past member of several others.
United Way President David Taylor and Boys and Girls Club CEO Tony Morstatter said Reece has demonstrated skills that will serve her well in her new role.
"She is able to synthesize a lot of different information around a whole host of topics and be able to relate it in a way people can understand," said Taylor.
"I look up to her as a role model because of her involvement in the community, passion for her work and her leadership," Morstatter said.
Follow Maria Nagle on Twitter: @Pg_Nagle