By Devin Rose
There will be at least one and possibly two seats open on the Park District of Oak Park's five-member board of commissioners this spring. Commissioner Marty Bracco said he's not planning to run again after eight years on the board. President Christine Graves has also served eight years, and said she will "probably not" run in the April 9 election, but hasn't made her decision yet.
Bracco said his time on the volunteer board, including one year as president and two as vice president, has been an "extraordinarily rewarding experience." He said he's worked with a great group of people who have gotten a lot done. The master planning process, which began after the passage of a 2005 referendum, was one accomplishment of which Bracco said he was especially proud. The plans map out specific details regarding improvements to be made at each park and facility, and the process was completed last year.
The renovations of Mills and Taylor parks last year and Scoville Park this year, Bracco said, will rejuvenate the spirit of the park system. Selecting a new executive director was also a major task. During his two terms, one of his goals was making the best decisions for the greatest number of people.
"Most times, people appreciate it and realize you're trying to do the right thing for everybody."
He doesn't envision holding another elected position and said it's time for someone else to step in. Service is in his blood, he noted, so he'll likely continue to be involved in the community in some form. He served on the West Suburban Special Recreation board as a representative for the park district and will be leaving that post when his term expires.
"Something will seek me out," Bracco said, adding that he's talked to several people who have been involved in affiliated organizations who might be interested in running for the board. The filing period for nominating petitions is Dec. 17-24 at Oak Park Village Hall.
Graves is still in the process of making a decision about whether she'll run again. While it's been a really exciting time in the park district, she said, serving on the board, especially as president, is a very intense time commitment. She plans to talk with her family to decide what they think is best.
Graves also cited the master planning process as a highlight of her time on the board, during which she served six years as secretary, one year as vice president and another year as president. She is proud of the fact that the Ridgeland Common renovation and building of the gymnastics center are moving forward after many years of discussion.
"The park district has not really had any new facilities in many, many years," Graves said.
The district has also gotten more grants in the last eight years. Graves went down to Springfield three times to get them signed and is making the trip again this week for a $400,000 grant for a future environmental center in Austin Gardens.
Graves said the community can be proud of the park district and its diverse programs. She is proud that they've always been responsive to the community.
"It's kind of hard to walk away from that, but at the same time, it's really quite a time commitment," Graves said.
Residents interested in filing a petition to run for the board can contact the Oak Park Village Clerk's Office at 708-358-5670 or the park district at 708-725-2017.