Arlington Heights park director honored with lifetime achievement award

Arlington Heights Park District Executive Director Carrie Fullerton has been honored with a lifetime achievement award for her career accomplishments spanning more than three decades.

Fullerton, who has managed Arlington Heights parks since 2020, received the Robert Artz Lifetime Achievement Award during an Illinois Park & Recreation Association conference last weekend at the Hyatt Regency Chicago.

Among her accomplishments, officials pointed to her role in helping pass a $9.9 million ballot initiative for sports fields and other projects while leading the Bloomingdale Park District in 2016. In Arlington Heights, they cited her management of the park district through the challenges of COVID-19.

Taking helm of the park district at the onset of the pandemic, Fullerton said in a recent National Recreation and Park Association oral history project video that she learned park districts “were more essential than we ever thought we could ever be.”

Fullerton kept some parks and programs open, setting up time slots for people to use swimming pools, for instance, while pivoting online for some classes.

A park director for 18 years in Arlington Heights, Bloomingdale and Hinsdale, Fullerton’s early experiences in the industry included an internship with the Arlington Heights Park District while attending the University of Illinois in 1992.

She was a camp counselor in Schaumburg — singing songs and doing arts and crafts with kids — when she says she knew she wanted parks and rec to be a career.

“I remember going into the recreation center and I could smell the chlorine, see the foosball table, see the pingpong table, and I just remember thinking, ‘Something really amazing is happening here in this environment.’”

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