By 2017, the decision of who gets to be a Fox Valley Park District commissioner will be in the hands of voters, not county board chairmen.
And while Kane County Board Chairman Chris Lauzen has some misgivings, "I would never argue against democracy," he said.
Contact information ( * required )
Legislation sponsored by State Sen. Karen McConnaughay of St. Charles was signed in to law last week.
The change to electing commissioners means Lauzen and DuPage County Board Chairman Dan Cronin won't be appointing the seven unpaid members of the board. Kane County has six members on the board; they were appointed in December 2013. DuPage has one, appointed in July 2013.
The Fox Valley Park District is the second-largest district in the state, with 233,000-plus residents and approximately 2,500 acres of parkland in 65 square miles in Aurora, Montgomery and North Aurora. It dips in to Kendall and Will counties.
The new law creates three districts within the park district. Two commissioners will be elected from each district, and one will be elected at large.
Lauzen introduced similar legislation when he was a state senator in 2011, because of complaints he received from constituents about the park board.
He said he worries about "unintended consequences," because through appointment, the county board chairmen can pick "the best and the brightest" to serve on the park board. Also, his appointees promised to try to freeze the park district's property-tax levy, at Lauzen's request. .
He also questions whether the subdistricts will be redrawn fairly after every census.
"I'm hoping the state's legislation does not further politicize our lives," Lauzen said.
For the first go-round, four of the commissioners will be elected to four-year terms, while the others will serve two years. Thereafter, all terms will be four years long.
"As the only remaining Illinois park district whose board of trustees is appointed, we welcome this transition that will allow our residents to elect their representatives by virtue of their vote," said Fox Valley Park Board President Robert Vaughan in a news release. "This will lead to greater engagement and participation by residents throughout the communities."
McConnaughay said it will increase the accountability of the board to district taxpayers.
The state senator formerly served as chairman of the Kane County Board.
Before he was a board member, Vaughan was executive director of the district. One of its recreation centers is named after him.
The new law also changes the legal name of the district, from the Fox Valley Pleasure Driveway and Park District to Fox Valley Park District.
Voters formed the district in April 1947.