James Neel: Candidate profile
Name: James C. Neel
Office sought: Park District Commissioner
Family: married, 1 son, 3 grandchildren
Occupation: retired teacher
Education: BA University of Illinois, MEd National Louis University
Civic involvement: Democratic Precinct Committeeman (2002-present), Warren Township Democrats Chair (2004-present), former Chair Save-A-Pet Auction/Fundraising Committee
Previous elected offices held: N/A
Incumbent? Yes If yes, when were you first elected? 2011
What are the most important issues facing your park district and how do you intend to address them?
The most important issues are: 1) Rebuilding the Pebble Beach boat launch which, while usable, needs to be upgraded for safety reasons and larger boats. I am suggesting that it be increased in width and the approach ramp strengthened. I am currently on the Committee responsible for this rebuild. 2) Additional equipment needed to maintain the parks and buildings. I am working with local business owners and others on a new program to obtain needed equipment. 3) Safety of residents in the parks has become a greater concern over the last few years. There has been increased vandalism in some of the parks and unwanted visitors after closing. To address this, an addition of a gate and security cameras at Rule Park house has been approved. Also, I am proposing an increase in security and/or sheriff patrols.
If you are a newcomer, what prompted you to run for the park board? If you're an incumbent, list your accomplishments or key initiatives in which you played a leadership role.
1) Supported the rebuilding of the Sunset Beach boat launch which is almost completed. 2) Successful erradication of parasites at Valley Lake. Swimmers' Itch was a major issue at this lake prior to treatment. Continuing treatment is needed. 3) Worked with several State legislators during my tenure to obtain grants to stop shore erosion and other park needs. 4) Championed the first kayak launch on Valley Lake which was created with recycled materials. 5) Helped to create new fishing platforms and rock stands for fishermen on Gages Lake.
Which programs aren't paying for themselves? Would you keep, eliminate or change them? How and why?
The Park District has performed several reviews of the Park programs. Ones that are not cost effective or do not have enough participants have been eliminated or changes have been made to them. This is an ongoing process to ensure that changes are made as needed.
Is there any additional open space the park district needs to acquire? Please describe.
No, our Park District currently has 11 parks that we improve and maintain within our unincorporated community. This includes 2 boat launches and 1 kayak launch on 2 lakes.
Are there any unmet recreational needs? If yes, what are they and how would you propose paying for them?
Yes. 1) There should be more Wildwood Park District activities for seniors. Though this is a group serviced by Warren Township, our residents have been asking for more local services. Programs can be designed with volunteers or part time staff to lead them with the cost paid for by the participants. 2) Wildwood used to have Apple Fest which was an extremely popular festival which brought the community together. The event could be paid for by local sponsors or food vendors, a crafts fair with local vendors having tables and also a Silent Auction.