For those who have never grasped the concept that dynamite comes in small packages, may I introduce to you Dawn Fitzcharles, the Administrator of the Village of Edgerton. Since joining the village staff in January of 2015, she has taken every bull that has challenged her by the horns…and there have been more than a few.
Dawn is a native of Steuben County, Indiana. After graduating from Angola High School, she went to Ivy Tech to get her Associates Degree, then graduated from Defiance College with her Bachelors Degree. She has been married to Tracy Fitzcharles for seven years, and has three children, Dayne, Kennedy and Kole.
Dawn began her service to Edgerton when she was hired as the Village Fiscal Officer (VFO) in January of 2015. With the departure of Village Administrator Kevin Brooks earlier in 2016, Dawn was named Interim Village Administrator on May 2. On August 1, the tag of interim was removed, and Dawn was appointed the new Village Administrator.
Go over that timeline again and take note of the fact that although she is the new Village Administrator, Dawn is still bearing the responsibilities of the VFO post for which she was originally hired. Two demanding, full-time posts being ably handled by one person. Most people would collapse under a workload of this magnitude. Then again, most people do not have the drive of a Dawn Fitzcharles.
First item on the agenda was a letter that read:
Dear Village of Edgerton Mayor, Council and Residents:
I wanted to let you know how much I appreciate the recent support I have received for my promotion to the Village Administrator of Edgerton. It’s an incredible opportunity; one that I have worked toward and desired for some time. Your confidence in my abilities means a great deal to me.
Many of you have provided frank advice and earnest support, which has already been a significant factor in my development. I look forward to the new challenges and opportunities for growth that this position will afford me.
Thanks again, for your help and trust. I will do my very best to surpass your expectations of me. I highly value your trust, and will work hard to keep it.
From there, it was nose to the grindstone time, and she hasn’t let up since.
“I wouldn’t be telling you the truth if I played it off as not being hard. It is. It’s challenging…but I’m up to the challenge,” Dawn said. As far as the concept of free time goes, she laughed and said, “I don’t really have a whole lot of that right now, but I anticipate that as we move forward and find someone to fill the VFO position, it’ll probably feel like a brand new job because I won’t be doing both. Right now, we’re over 100 days into this, so I’m getting into a groove into handling both jobs.” As it currently stands, the goal is to have a candidate for the VFO post to present to Council for their first meeting in September.
All kidding aside, Dawn does find occasional free time…but she has to create it. “I do,” she said. “I make it work. I have the ability to take my computer with me, so sometimes I will sit up late at night after everybody goes to bed, and I’ll work. Sometimes I’ll get up early in the morning and work. I’m still able to take my kids to school, something I really enjoy. I’m still able to make it to all their special functions. I have a really good team here (at the Village Office).” Family ranks at the top of the free time priority, with weekly gatherings at her parents’ home in Ashley every Sunday afternoon a staple.
Dawn has brought about several positive changes for the Village during her brief tenure. “Shortly after I started working here last January,” she explained, “I started working with some of the other office staff. The jobs are very segregated. People weren’t able to move from one position to another, so something that we worked on was being able to cross train. I now have help with accounts payable and accounts receivable as a result of the changes made before the change in administration. I have a great team, and I probably wouldn’t be making it if I didn’t have that support.”
The biggest challenges that Dawn is taking on are also areas where she can showcase shining achievements and progress for the village. By and large, those challenges all orbit around the same focal point…finances. By no coincidence, it is also the point about Dawn is the most exuberant. “I think that the biggest challenges over the next five years are going to be the best utilization of funds to get the capital projects that we need to have completed,” she said without a pause. “We have several large ticket items that are going to cost $300,000 to $500,000 a pop. The challenge will be in making a plan in how we’re going to get from point A, to point B, and then to point C with the funds that we have.”
She continued, “When Kevin was here, he was very knowledgeable in grants, and he did get some for the village. He was not able to do as much as he would have liked, because at that time we did not have the grant match. With a lot of these grants, they won’t give you 100 percent, but they will give you 50 percent. We needed to have the other portion to get the grant and get the project done. In January of 2015, the village had a deficit in the general fund of $279,000. Right now, we have $530,000, so we’ve made a swing from the negative to the positive. I anticipate that as we go forward, that number will only grow. The idea is to get us to that carryover, that rainy day ‘fluff’ so that tomorrow, if we have a major catastrophe, it won’t bankrupt us. We’ll be able to survive because we’ll still have that six-month expense carryover. Above and beyond that, we need to start putting money into our infrastructure. We have paving that needs to be done. We have storm and water lines that need to be replaced.
There’s definitely areas that we need to look into repairing and replacing. The trick is that it’s going to be a puzzle. Everything is related. You might have a breakdown in a street, but it might be due to something leaking underneath it. If you repair the street, but not the leak, it’s going to fall apart again. Navigating through these things, and making the best decisions possible with the funds that we have is the challenge. The last thing that I want to do is authorize any spending of any tax dollars that will need to be spent twice. We need to spend once, and do the job right the first time.”
“The village got to that rock bottom place over the course of about fifteen years,” Dawn said. “From the time that we were rock bottom until now, it’s been about three years. We’re headed in the right direction, but it’s going to take time. We’re not going to solve the issues overnight. In the fall of 2013, the State of Ohio put us in a status of fiscal emergency. We’ve been working on vendor relationships, and where we spend our money. Essentially, what we’ve been able to do is increase revenues, and decrease expenses. We’ve started a ‘snowball’, and you’re seeing the snowball getting larger. If we keep heading in this direction, and really REALLY working to make the best decisions, the Village of Edgerton is anticipating filing for termination from fiscal emergency status at the first Council meeting in January of 2017. That’s a crazy turnaround.”
To the citizens of Edgerton, Dawn says, “I want to express how thankful I am for the support that I’ve received. People that I don’t know are stepping forward and saying, ‘We hear and we see the great things that are happening, and we’re very excited for the future.’ I appreciate the opportunity. It’s not every day that someone gets an opportunity like this, so I not only appreciate it, I intend on doing the best job that I possibly can to turn the town around, and get to where we need to go…to change the legacy for the future. The kids and grandkids…that’s what a lot of Edgerton residents worry about. I want to leave the town in good condition for the generations that are yet to come. We’re definitely well on our way to doing that. We have an awesome park. We have an excellent school. We have new developments popping up all around town. We have a lot to offer here, but we need to make changes to continue to make it a great place.”
“I think that prior to 2013, a lot of residents had lost faith because of the situation that we found ourselves in,” Dawn said. “I’m hoping that as time goes on and we start to prove ourselves, and the residents start to see the physical needs being taken care of, that there will be a renewal of faith.” That is already beginning to happen. The red ink is turning black again.
There’s a new Dawn breaking in the Village of Edgerton…and her name is Fitzcharles.
Timothy Kays can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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