Eisenhauer: 'Good fit for community'

DANVILLE — Back when he was Danville’s 38-year-old new mayor, Scott Eisenhauer hoped to win one more four-year term and work college courses into his schedule, so he could become a high school government teacher once he walked away from city hall.

That was 16 years and three successful mayoral campaigns ago.

“Work sort of consumed my time,” he said.

Now, as he prepares for a career change at age 54, Eisenhauer is finally getting around to that goal he had of finishing his education. Only this time, the decision isn’t his alone to make.

One of the terms of the six-figure job he’ll start Monday — village administrator of Rantoul — is that he complete his bachelor’s degree by Dec. 31, 2021.
He can’t wait.

“I’m absolutely thrilled to be going back to college. It really is something I’ve always wanted to do,” said Eisenhauer, who in January plans to begin online college courses through Eastern Illinois University.

The village isn’t requiring that he major in any particular field or even attend classes in person on a college campus. And once he has a degree in hand — which could be a matter of completing just seven more classes — he’ll get a $10,000 raise to his $100,000 starting salary.

Rantoul will also reimburse him up to $7,000 a year for his college costs, which Eisenhauer would have to repay if he left the job within two years.

A lifelong resident of Vermilion County’s largest city, Eisenhauer graduated from Danville High School and earned his associate’s degree in applied science from Danville Area Community College. He attended classes at the University of Illinois but didn’t finish his studies, choosing to learn on the job instead.

“I love to learn,” he said. “That’s one of the things I’ve loved about this job (mayor), is I’m learning all the time.”

‘Win-win opportunity’
Both of the two Rantoul administrators who came before Eisenhauer held bachelor’s degrees and master’s in public administration before they moved to town.

Predecessor Rick Snider did his undergraduate studies at the UI and received his master’s from the University of New Mexico. Jeff Fiegenschuh, who preceded him, earned his bachelor’s degree from Nebraska’s Wayne State College and his master’s from the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

When Snider announced his plans to leave after less than a year on the job, the posting for the position listed a graduate degree as “preferred” but not required, said Rantoul Mayor Chuck Smith.

A minimum of 15 years’ experience in local government was also in the job posting. Eisenhauer has nearly 16 years of on-the-job experience running a city and served as a Danville alderman prior to that.

Smith said Eisenhauer’s experience made him an attractive candidate.

“I’m excited about having him be the head of our staff,” Smith said. “He’s a good fit for the community. Rantoul, in a lot of ways, mirrors Danville.”

And, Smith added, furthering his formal education will help Eisenhauer earn his city manager credentials from the International City/County Management Association, another requirement of his employment in Rantoul.

“I’d like to see him do that,” he said. “It’s a win-win opportunity for him and the village.”

Eisenhauer’s predecessors in Rantoul were also compensated more. Snider, who left a job as Champaign County administrator that paid him about $130,000, started at $135,000 in Rantoul. Fiegenschuh was paid $118,000 annually.

Eisenhauer’s path to paychecks that large would require him to further his education beyond a bachelor’s degree.

His contract with the village calls for a $20,000-a-year raise if he goes on to earn a master’s in public or business administration or city and regional planning.

But he isn’t required to get a master’s.

“I certainly do want to go on,” Eisenhauer said of post-graduate work, which he’d prefer be in public administration.

9:66 credit hours in can
Eisenhauer has already been accepted at EIU, and said he’s working closely with a counselor, Kimberly Redfern, to determine what he needs to complete a bachelor’s.

That will depend on how many of the credit hours he earned from the UI can be applied toward his bachelor’s degree at Eastern. He said he accumulated 66 while studying kinesiology and psychology.

He paid his own way to college back then and ultimately gave up school for a job in radio. Eisenhauer said his plan was to earn more money to go back to school and finish out a degree but “life happened” — more opportunities in radio, a full-time job in emergency management, 250 hours of class work for an Illinois Professional Emergency Manager’s designation and a long run in local politics. He was the youngest person to ever be elected Danville mayor.

Although EIU is still calculating how many more credit hours Eisenhauer needs, he said it looks like he is seven college courses shy of earning a bachelor’s degree in general studies. As far as what those seven courses focus on, Eisenhauer wants them to be topics that will serve him well in public administration, such as political science, professional development and organizational leadership.

Eisenhauer will start his studies Jan. 7. He chose the online option so he has flexibility to juggle college and his new job responsibilities.

“So I’m very confident that I will be able to devote the time necessary to the position and devote weekend time to school,” he said.

Once his first degree is finished, Eisenhauer said he’s serious about getting his master’s, which will not only help in his new job but could come in handy in his next career.

“For a long time I’ve thought that after I left local government, I’d be teaching in a classroom somewhere,” he said. “That’s always been an interest to me.”

tcrane@news-gazette.com

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