The Hampshire Township Park District didn't have to look too far for its new executive director.
While Laura Schraw, 33, lives within walking distance of the park district's offices, she also knows how to write and secure grants, a skill an official said is necessary in a district of three parks.
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"We needed to find somebody who could help bring in additional funds without raising the taxes," said Aaron Kelly, park board president. "So her ability to find grants was a large bonus."
Schraw succeeds Bob Whitehouse who is staying on part time to help train her before he retires Dec. 2. He's stepping down after eight years as executive director.
Schraw comes to the park district from Yorkville, where she was the city's director of parks and recreation, a job she held for two years. For about five years before that, Schraw worked as Yorkville's city park designer.
She started her professional career as a park planner in the Oswegoland Park District and stayed for four years. Before that, she held internships with park districts in Wheaton and Lisle. She holds a bachelor's degrees in landscape architecture and natural resources from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana.
Schram will make $57,000 a year in her new position, Kelly said. She faced heavy competition for the job.
The board received 36 resumes, narrowed that number to 10 and selected two finalists to come in for second interviews, Kelly said.
Schraw lives in Hampshire with her husband and their young son, which gives her a vested interest in the community, Kelly said.
Nearly two years ago, Schraw also asked district officials how she could help improve the playgrounds and was one of only a few residents attending an initial meeting about a new day care center opening in the park district. That made an impression as well.
"You could see there was interest before there was even a position," Kelly said. "And that was an introduction to her."
Now that Schraw doesn't have a 50 minute commute each way from Yorkville, she can spend time getting to meet people and better understanding the area.
"It's been a great community, we've been here four years," Schraw said. "It feels like people really care about each other."