The Wednesday Journal sent questionnaires to each person running for public office in 2023. The candidates’ replies are as shown as they were received by the Journal. For more on a candidate, click their name or photo.
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.
My interest is in continuing the work of the Board toward enriching our community through all that our parks, facilities and programs have to offer, both directly and in cooperation with other organizations. This includes the enjoyment of green space, recreational areas/facilities and programs that serve kids and adults throughout the stages of their lives; facilitating aging in place.
Ours is a participatory democracy and citizen involvement is both a right and responsibility. I am fortunate enough to have been born and raised in the area and utilized the Park District extensively. I have also lived overseas, often where citizen engagement was minimal. As a result, I feel serving the communities in which my five siblings and I grew up—and my own children now live—presents both a unique opportunity and genuine responsibility.
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.
- I’ve served on the Park Board for the past 6 years, initially as a Commissioner, then Treasurer and now President. Broadly, we’ve become better organized, more transparent and nimbler, successfully managed through COVID.
- My longevity in the community, having raised a family here, and membership and participation in a variety of athletic and community organizations allow me to interact with a broad range and large number of residents. I’m in regular contact with people serving in leadership positions with the Village, Township, D90 and Community Center as well as Dominican University and Fenwick. Beyond that, I’m actively broadening my reach to further facilitate working cross-organizationally.
I would bring to this office a diverse set of experiences that range from large corporations to city and national government. I began my career working in personal finance and moved to the Denver Mayor’s Office of Economic Development. After 9/11, I served in the Central Intelligence Agency in Washington DC and overseas. I ultimately returned to my hometown of Chicago and the private sector after about 10 years in the government, and I now work at Northern Trust. Each of these diverse experiences has informed and tempered my professional style, specifically my concern for objective, fact-driven analysis.
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.
- With just 30 acres of park land, a fraction of the average typically allocated in a community of our size, balance of park amenities is a challenge. We work toward balancing open space and walking paths with playgrounds, sports fields, courts and facilities. The in-process redesign of Keystone for better use of space is an example of how we’re tackling this tactically. The Parks Master Planning effort currently underway is how we’re moving with this strategically.
- Another challenge mirroring limited park land is the very limited amount of indoor space. Considerable effort is expended to share gym space and still the amount and availability is overly limiting.
- The other dynamic requiring balance is meeting the needs of all age groups and abilities for recreation and program interests. We work toward balancing youth sports, activities and summer camps with adult sports, fitness and interests. As an example, we are replacing the Washington Commons playground equipment with the latest accessible equipment. Additionally, the upcoming community survey will help us direct attention to any new population dynamics and popularized sports and activities.
Our location and borders. We are a land-locked community and many additional services, facilities, and programs must be reconciled with the fact that there will be compromises among competing wants and needs of current and future community members.
Communication. Because of the above facts, there must continue to be ongoing and extensive communication and engagement; the Park District simply cannot function without the contributions and suggestions of its citizenry. Conversely, the Park District board is entrusted to act in the community’s best interest by demonstrating radical transparency regarding their fact-gathering and decision-making process, knowing full-well that the best solutions are likely to be those where no single party gets everything they want.
Financial Stewardship. The mindful management of this community’s finances is paramount. Providing ongoing transparency on funds collected as well as their intended and actual use cannot be neglected by this body.