A 20-year veteran of the United States Navy’s Civil Engineer Corps has joined Will County as its new Facility Management Director. The new position is responsible for the numerous buildings that are part of the county-wide operations.
Will County Executive Larry Walsh announced the addition of Joel Van Essen, 46, to his staff. Van Essen brings more than 20 years of experience in facility maintenance and project management.
“We are proud to have Joel on our staff to oversee county buildings such as the new state of the art Public Safety Complex, which will be opening soon, and the future courthouse that will soon begin construction,” Walsh said. “This is an exciting time for Will County as we are in the midst of the largest capital campaign in our history. Having Joel on board to oversee the day to day operations of these new and our existing building is a great asset for the county.”
While serving in the U.S. Navy, Van Essen managed naval facilities at various bases around the country and completed two Seabee tours overseas. He also served two tours in Afghanistan where he advised Afghans officials such as the Mayor of Kabul and the Governor of Ghazni Province in facility management and oversaw construction of important civic/security facilities and infrastructure. He will be able to employ the skills he learned while serving in the Navy to this new position. Most recently, Van Essen served as project manager for the University of Chicago Medicine’s $200 million cancer center renovation.
“I learned how to develop a comprehensive program which gave a total picture of all assets and planning while in the Navy,” Van Essen said. “The skills of proper programming and cost management can be applied in my position with Will County as well. My goal is to create unity amongst the various county buildings and focus on efficient operations.”
Currently, Van Essen is preparing to relocate the Sheriff’s operations from several buildings into the new Public Safety Complex, which is projected to open at the end of 2017. He is working to establish contracts for the day to day operations of the building including janitorial services as well as grounds and elevator maintenance.
“Once the building is finished, there is still work to be done to prepare for staff to move in,” he said. “It is a big coordination effort to ensure when the doors open all the phones and computers are working, the lights are on, the parking lot is safe and accessible. We are fortunate in Will County to have many dedicated individuals working towards this goal.”
In addition to the new courthouse, Van Essen is working with health department officials on programming needs for its new building.
“This will be another large project for Will County,” he said. “The current building was built in the 1920s and has far outlived its purpose. We need a new, efficient health department building to deliver the important health services the residents of our county need and deserve. This is a big job, but I am up for challenge.”
Van Essen currently lives in Orland Park with his wife and two sons.