The Wednesday Journal sent questionnaires to each person running for public office in 2023. The Journal’s questions are in bold and the candidate’s responses are below.
Name: Dennis Healy
Previous Political Experience: River Forest Park District Commissioner, 2019 – present
Previous/Current Community Involvement: River Forest Township Mental Health Committee, 2017 – 2021
Occupation: Stay at home Dad
Education: B.A. Sociology
1. Why are you running for the board of the Park District of River Forest?
When I was first elected to the board in 2019 one of my primary goals was to make our parks more inclusive and accessible. The board has been working to create a Master Plan that will go a long way towards accomplishing that goal. We will be receiving bids for the playground at Washington Commons at our March meeting that include accessible features. The hope is that this park is completed this summer – ready for kids and families to enjoy. Ultimately, I decided to run again for a number of reasons, one of which being seeing through the update to Washington Commons to completion. As a Dad to a disabled child it was important to me to see the playground become more accessible and supportive of kids with various mobility or sensory needs. I also really enjoy being on the Board and having the opportunity to give back by serving the community. I think the Board has made some great progress the last few years and I am excited to see how we can continue to improve and update the parks in the years to come.
2. What experience and perspectives would you bring to the position and how would they be valuable as an elected official?
I was elected to the Park Board in 2019, have been the acting alternate Board member for WSSRA since 2019 and took on the responsibility of Park Board Treasurer for the last 2 years. Additionally, I was on the River Forest Township Mental Health Board from 2017-2021 I think my experience serving the community over the past 6 years along with my intimate knowledge of current Park Board plans and future needs provides tremendous value to the board and community. I’m also a community member – our family of four has used and enjoyed our parks and park programming throughout our 9 years as River Forest residents. I think that experience helps shape my opinions and thoughts on what works for the parks and things that we could improve on. I’m not affiliated with any particular club or special interest group which allows me to take a more holistic and unbiased approach to making decisions that best meet the community’s needs.
3. What do you believe are some of the greatest challenges facing the park district?
River Forest has finite green space and very little undeveloped land. Our greatest challenge is utilizing the limited space we have to provide the most options we can for the benefit of everyone in the community and their varying needs. Unlike larger or newer communities most of our spaces need to be multipurpose and have the ability to serve people of all ages and all abilities. We also have a small (but mighty) staff and need to be mindful of how we offer programs, support those programs and service the spaces. Focusing on The Master Plan will allow us to start the process of creating modern and vibrant spaces for us all. The Master Plan will also help the Board set a long term agenda that provides a blueprint to the community, future board members and staff on the best way to use the park spaces we have available.