Walsh nominates son to fill Will County school chief vacancy
By Cindy Wojdyla Cain Sun-Times Media February 14, 2013 11:04PM
Updated: March 17, 2013 6:37PM
Will County Executive Larry Walsh, who was criticized during his re-election campaign for having many relatives in government jobs, is nominating his son, Shawn Walsh, to fill the regional superintendent of schools vacancy.
“I’m very, very proud of my son,” Walsh said. “He’s always wanted to be involved in education and he planned his whole future on that.”
Larry Walsh said no one should have thought that they didn’t have a chance because Shawn Walsh was in the running. He said if a “far superior” candidate had applied, they would have been nominated.
If Shawn is approved by the county board next week, he will serve the remainder of former Regional Superintendent Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant’s term and he would have to run in the November 2014 election. Bertino-Tarrant, D-Shorewood, resigned Jan. 9 when she was sworn in as a state senator.
By law, if there is a vacancy in an elected office, the county executive nominates a replacement and the county board ratifies it. Larry Walsh, D-Elwood, and county board member Joe Babich, D-Joliet, added another step. They created a selection committee of retired or almost retired superintendents to inject some educational expertise into the selection process.
The committee, chaired by former Joliet Grade School Superintendent Phyllis Wilson, unanimously picked Shawn Walsh of Elwood, who has worked as assistant regional superintendent of schools for five years and is a former teacher and dean.
He was the only applicant. Another potential candidate did not meet all of the qualifications, said Nick Palmer, Larry Walsh’s chief of staff.
On Thursday, Larry Walsh forwarded his son’s name to the county board’s executive committee. The board will vote on the appointment during its meeting at 9:30 a.m. Feb. 21 in the Will County Office Building, 302 N. Chicago St.
Palmer said he wouldn’t be surprised if the move, which would bump Shawn Walsh’s salary from about $96,888 to $107,640, is criticized.
“But I believe we had a fair process, an open process,” he said. “We went out of our way to include experts in the education field.”
The vacancy was publicized by local newspapers, radio stations and websites, he said. It was not advertised in regional or national publications. Palmer said there was a residency requirement for the job, but reviews of the election code and education code do not list any.
There may have been a lack of candidate for the job because it requires special administrative certifications, Palmer said. Also, it’s an elected position that has been on shaky ground with the cash-strapped state in the past.
“Most superintendents around the county are making more than that (salary) and they don’t have to run for office,” Palmer added.
Shawn Walsh’s appointment would come almost a year after one of Walsh’s other sons, Larry Walsh Jr., was appointed by the Will County Democratic Party to replace state Rep. Jack McGuire, D-Joliet, who resigned from office in early April after the March primary. Larry Walsh Jr. was elected to a full term in November.
Former county board member Cory Singer criticized Larry Walsh, his opponent in the November election for county executive, for having at least nine relatives in government jobs earning more than $677,000 (including Larry Walsh).
“Obviously, Cory did make an issue out of it and Larry won,” said Republican Caucus Chairman Jim Moustis, R-Frankfort Township. “I guess it’s not a concern of the general public’s as long as you’re doing the job and show up for work.”
Walsh said at the time he did not play any role in his relatives getting government jobs and that some had held their positions long before he was elected to office.
While county board members didn’t seem to have a problem with the Shawn Walsh nomination on Thursday morning, Americans for Prosperity-Illinois issued a press release later in the day calling on the board to reject it.
“Unfortunately, Will County politicians seem to be vying for the top position when it comes to putting personal and family interests ahead of those of the taxpayers they were elected to serve,” wrote AFP Illinois State Director David From.