Park Board candidates stress listening to the community
By David Sharos For The Sun March 7, 2013 3:00PM
Updated: April 9, 2013 10:59AM
The general election scheduled for April 9 this year will have residents casting votes for a total of four Naperville Park Board seats.
Currently, incumbents Gerry Heide, M. Michael Reilly, Kirsten Young and Bill Eagan are all seeking another term and running unopposed.
Just because they are virtually guaranteed re-election doesn’t mean they don’t have some issues they would like to talk about.
Heide, 49, was appointed to fill a vacant seat in August of 2008 and ran for his current term in 2009. Heide said his focus back then remains the same as it does today, four years later.
“I felt the commissioners back then had run things down and were not at all tuned-in to their constituents,” he said. “One of the things I’ve stressed is being available. I’ve returned phone calls and emails and attended a lot of events. I’m still interested in what people have to say.”
During his next term, Heide said his goals include maintaining an ongoing platform to make sure the district is making better use of its assets as well as maintaining what it has.
“We also want to maintain our financial stability and not try and outsmart our constituents but keep listening to what they say,” he said. “We want to continue to use our interest surveys and act on them.”
Heide chairs the Legislative Committee on the Park Board as well as working for the Riverwalk Commission. He said the board is committed to following “best practices” when it comes to making decisions about spending and capital projects. He said this will be his last term and that he wants to leave knowing that he and others “have righted the ship.”
Reilly, 65, is completing his first four-year term and plans to complete another. He said “the current board is running very well and currently has a good system in place.”
“All seven of us are involved in a process now that is effective in terms of determining what the community wants as well as what its needs are and what we can afford,” Reilly said. “The review process for us is working well, and it promotes doing more of it. It’s fun to be a part of the team.”
Reilly said goals for the next term include maintaining the Park District’s financial strength and its current AAA bond rating as well as “maintaining its relevance.”
“We want to continue to serve all parts of the community, and we have addressed some of the issues in the southern portion which was being underserved,” he said. “We now have the 95th Street center and we are working on Southwest Community Park. We’ve installed a second synthetic turf which is important because you don’t have to let those fields ‘rest’ like the natural fields we have.”
Like Heide, Reilly also stressed maintaining what the district already has as well as working to ensure that the current programs in place continue to grow.
Eagan, 39, is just completing a two-year term following the replacement of former board member Suzanne Hart, who assumed a new position on the County Board. Eagan said he brings financial expertise to the Park Board.
“I am an accountant and ... wanted to bring some of those skills into the decision-making process,” Eagan said. “I work on the Golf Committee and we looked at things like gas versus electric carts and wanted to make sure we bought what was best for our courses and made sense.”
Like the other commissioners, Eagan said the biggest task is to continue to look at what the community has and work to address its needs.
“We’ve added basketball and tennis courts and people wanted to play cricket so we’ve made that available,” he said. “In terms of facing our financial challenges, we are very balanced overall and we need to keep our partnerships going. Our teams are working hard to get advertising sponsorships and we continue to benefit from strong revenue sources.”
Serving the needs of those in Naperville, Eagan said, remains job one.
“We need to try to provide what the people who live here want,” he said. “They are the ones who pay the bill and we need to keep them front and center.”
Young, 47, was elected as Park Board president in 2012. She said she has enjoyed serving the board in that capacity.
“We have disagreements about things at times, but in the end, we always come back to what is best for the district in terms of our decision making and feel good about it, because we’ve kept our goals in mind,” Young said.
The challenges for her next term and that of other board members include dealing with what Young calls, “the known/unknown.”
“We know that because of the Affordable Care Act that’s about to be launched that it’s going to affect our benefit costs for full- and part-time employees,” she said. “That’s an example of known and unknown costs. We also have the cleanup at Sportsman’s Park, with costs that remain unknown as well.”
Young said her continuing on the board reflects more of a personal matter than an effort to right any wrongs.
“I get a lot of personal satisfaction from contributing and giving back to the community,” she said. “My law background gives me a level of comfort when dealing with contractions or negotiations.
These are skills I can continue to draw on in my current role.”