By Bob Uphues
When Edward Bailey accepted the job of public works director in Riverside, his impression was that he'd be a short-timer. Hired as an interim director, Bailey was there to bring some stability to a department whose director had just been pink-slipped after 18 months in what was described as a "mutual" decision.
That was more than a decade ago.
On Oct. 16, Bailey will bid farewell to Riverside, retiring after a three-decade career in public service.
"There's nothing magic about the specific date," Bailey said. "I just wanted to know I had some time to do something else."
Riverside Village Manager Jessica Frances and the village board recognized Bailey's years of service with the village, presenting him with a watch at the Board of Trustees' meeting on Oct. 1.
According to Frances, Bailey was Riverside's longest-serving public works chief of the last 25 years.
His replacement has already been named. Public Works Superintendent Dan Tabb, hired about a year ago for the job after five years as the village's water operator, will take over immediately.
Bailey informed Frances a more than a year ago that he likely would be retiring by the end of 2020, and for the last six months or so he's been grooming Tabb for the role.
"He's been off-loading a bunch of [information], telling me what to expect," Tabb said. "It's definitely been a mentoring position."
Bailey told the Landmark that the department is in good hands with Tabb at the helm.
"I have all the confidence in the world in Dan," Bailey said. "He's up to the job. I have zero reservations about the department's future with him in charge."
Tabb got his start in public works as a part-time seasonal employee in Riverside in 2000. Two years later, he was hired full time and also became a paid-on-call Riverside firefighter. He has remained a Riverside firefighter ever since.
However, in 2007 Tabb left his public works job to work as an options trader. He left that job in 2014, returning to Riverside Public Works as a water operator.
Bailey came to Riverside in June 2010 after nine years as city manager in Countryside. A U.S. Air Force veteran, the native of Michigan's Upper Peninsula served as the director of operations and maintenance at the K.I. Sawyer Air Force Base Development Authority in Gwinn, Michigan, before heading south to the Chicago area.
For the past 15 years, Bailey's lived in the Greektown neighborhood in Chicago, and said he has no plans to head back north.
"I've had enough time up there," Bailey said.
Frances said Bailey recognized Riverside's special nature and embraced the volunteers who have been instrumental in helping the village care for its green spaces. He also was open to working collaboratively to find solutions.
"His demeanor is so welcoming to residents," Frances said. "He's great at taking feedback and seeing how it can be turned into action."
Bailey improved the department's organization and commitment to workplace safety. He also was committed to green infrastructure initiatives.
"It was something he took very personally," Frances said.
While Bailey oversaw the full range of public works initiatives during his decade in Riverside, he said the one his cherishes the most is the repair and restoration of the Riverside train depot.
"I oversaw a number of projects there," he said. "That's my baby, so to speak. It should be good for the next 50 years."
As he heads into retirement, Bailey said he's been yearning to take an extended camping trip to the southern states, although the COVID-19 pandemic may put that on hold until at least next year.
"One thing I've had on my mind is throwing the camping gear in the truck and taking a deep dive into the Deep South," Bailey said. "I've been wanting to explore that for years."
Until then, Bailey has some time to reflect on his time in Riverside.
"It's been a very fulfilling, stimulating, challenging 10 years," Bailey said. "There's a richness to the community that other communities don't have."