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updated: 11/30/2011 3:07 PM

Bartlett parks executive receives national award

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  • Vice president of the Bartlett Park District board of commissioners Lori Palmer, left, with executive director Rita Fletcher in Atlanta.

    Vice president of the Bartlett Park District board of commissioners Lori Palmer, left, with executive director Rita Fletcher in Atlanta.
    Courtesy of Bartlett Park District

Submitted by the Bartlett Park District

Rita Fletcher, executive director of the Bartlett Park District, was awarded the 2011 Distinguished Professional of the year by the Great Lakes Network of the National Recreation and Park Association at a special reception during the 2011 Congress & Exposition in Atlanta, Ga., Nov. 2.

Launched this year, NRPA Network Awards are designed to honor NRPA members for their significant efforts in specialized areas of parks and recreation. Individuals are chosen for their contributions to advancing the movement through professional service, volunteerism and education. Winners -- nominated from NRPA's 20,000 members -- are chosen by the association's interest area or regional Networks.

Fletcher began her career with the Bartlett Park District in 1986, as a recreation supervisor. She was promoted to assistant superintendent of recreation then to superintendent of recreation. In 2005, she was promoted to executive director.

The award criteria focused on leadership, accomplishments and significant contributions within the recreation field, which Fletcher excels in all three areas. She has many professional accomplishments. The three most noteworthy, highlighted for this award, include: Bartlett Park District named as finalist for the 2009 and 2010 NRPA Gold Medal Award; the passing of an $18 million bond referendum in November 2010, to purchase and renovate 138 acres, including an1 8-hole golf course, banquet facility and seven ski/snowboard runs and a snow tube hill as well as renovate and expand an 18-year-old outdoor aquatic center.

On Dec. 27, 2010 the park district purchased the 138-acre property and Fletcher immediately began running the daily operations. This acquisition made Bartlett the only park district in Illinois with a ski hill. Immediate changes impacted the district including increasing full-time staff by 14, part-time staff by 160, expanding the areas of accounting, payroll, maintenance, marketing and technology.

In October 2010 Rita successfully led the park district to pass the IPRA/IAPD Distinguished Accredited Agency Program. This program uses standards to evaluate and identify agencies throughout the state that provide exceptional park and recreation services. Staff worked diligently on this process for 12 months.

"With her 'can do it' approach, attention to detail, expectation of nothing but the best, and most of all her positive with a capital 'P' attitude every single day. We may not be the biggest park district in the country, but Rita runs our organization as well as, if not better than, any organization out there. She works very hard to embody our slogan, 'We Create Fun' and it shows in everything she does," said Lori Palmer, vice president of the Bartlett Park District board of commissioners.

For more information on NRPA's national award programming, contact Brenda Beales at (703) 858-2141 or

The National Recreation and Park Association is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing park, recreation and conservation efforts that enhance quality of life for all people. Through its network of 20,000 recreation and park professionals and citizens, NRPA encourages the promotion of healthy lifestyles, recreation initiatives, and conservation of natural and cultural resources. For information, visit For digital access to NRPA's flagship publication,

Parks & Recreation, visit

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