Bernie Mayle Jr.: 2021 candidate for Schaumburg Park Commissioner
Three candidates for two four-year terms
Age on Election Day: 66
Occupation: Senior vice president of finance, CPA
Employer: Mutual of Omaha Mortgage, Inc.
Civic involvement: Thirty-plus year volunteer for Schaumburg's Septemberfest festival; 10-plus years as an active Boy Scout leader and committee member of Troop 196; coached for the Schaumburg Athletic Association; attended the Schaumburg Park District board and finance committee meetings for the past 6 years as a concerned resident
Q. Why are you running for this office? Is there a particular issue that motivates you, and if so, what is it?
A. I am running to be an elected commissioner of the Schaumburg Park District (SPD) because of my desire to advance the high standard of excellence SPD has earned itself in the community and the nation. Professionally, my education and work experience will bring a high level of financial expertise to the board. As a 40-year resident in the village of Schaumburg and a regular user of many of the park district amenities, I also feel I am uniquely qualified to provide effective board governance, expand programs and hold our executive director and ourselves as an elected board accountable. I will work to ensure SPD maintains strict financial discipline during the pandemic and to not allow it to let its guard down when we emerge from this unprecedented time. I will listen to and represent all of our community residents to bring and expand quality programs to the neighborhoods and our park district facilities. SPD cannot rest on its past successes. It must continue to innovate and reach more residents each and every day.
Q. Did your park district continue to adequately serve its constituents during the disruptions caused by the pandemic? If so, please cite an example of how it successfully adjusted to continue providing services. If not, please cite a specific example of what could have been done better.
A. SPD has excelled in its attempt to serve its constituents during the pandemic and it starts with communication and an innovative program staff. Weekly email newsletters, and the use of Facebook and other social media, inform residents and members of: Amenity closings and openings, virtual classes, outdoor activities including fitness classes and seeing Santa Clause, in-home projects for children, playground rules to follow, and a reservation system for those who want to lap swim, use fitness, soccer and baseball facilities. SPD also has the Spring Valley Nature Center and Heritage Farm property which during the pandemic has functioned as an outdoor walking nature preserve including outdoor programs such as bird watching, night owl hunts and maple syrup production. All of these programs are being administered following the guidelines of the CDC and the state of Illinois Health Department, including but not limited to social distancing, wearing face coverings, capacity restrictions and recommended sanitation standards and practices.
Q. In light of our experiences with COVID-19, what safeguards/guidelines should you put in place to address any future public health crises?
A. Local leaders are expected to be approachable, transparent and responsive while holding an elected office and this responsibility is critical in times of crisis. I intend to be visible throughout the community if elected as a park district board commissioner regardless of whether times are difficult or normalized. I will advocate soliciting community opinions balanced with guidance from state authorities and science, to provide a broad perspective of direction for the SPD in times of a public health crisis or when other decisions impacting the community need to be made. Another lesson I hope we all have learned is the utmost importance of sanitization within and around its public facilities. The SPD owes its community the full attention and implementation of, at a minimum, national and state recommended sanitization practices. I will ensure this topic is contained in the operating manuals of the SPD and has sufficient budgetary resources to attain what every Schaumburg resident would expect from this quality organization.
Q. How has the pandemic affected the park district's offerings and use of facilities. Are there other ways the park board can fulfill the mission of a park district during these times?
A. SPD has continued to offer programs and its facilities to residents though significantly curtailed, both remotely and in person following strict government guidelines. However, besides the KASPER before and after school program, I would like to explore collaboration between the SPD and School Districts 211 and 54. As three community tax based entities, our goals should be aligned; provide safe and nurturing environments to improve the wellness and educational opportunities of our children. I will advocate that the School Districts and SPD meet on a regular basis to share ideas on how to and implement a commingling of each other's resources and not only collaborate during a crisis but also when our society is back to a more normalized social and interactive environment.
Q. How has the pandemic affected the park district's revenue? How has that been addressed on the expense side?
A. User fee revenue of SPD has declined more than 60% this fiscal year as compared to its budget which was created just before the pandemic began to severely impact the health and welfare of communities across the nation. While revenue has declined, SPD managed it expenses making extremely difficult and significant staff reductions early in 2020. Current operating results show that the expense controls have reduced expenses by nearly the same percentage of the revenue loss. Projected operating results for the entire fiscal year indicate that the SPD will end with a manageable operating loss. However, SPD has managed it financial operations carefully in past years and that planning and execution has positioned the SPD to operate without the need of additional borrowings for operations to date. Besides the reduction of expenses it should also be noted that SPD delayed the implementation of several infrastructure projects to conserve cash and implemented a wage freeze.
Q. What other issues need to be addressed?
A. Earlier I mentioned my vision of the SPD being more collaborative with local schools but that should not be the extent of its outreach. Not everyone can go to a park district facility to workout or take a class offered because of a disability, work schedules or family commitments. I would like to see the SPD consider bringing many programs to parks, senior facilities, office complexes, individual businesses and other venues all meant to bring it programs closer and more accessible to the residents and those who work in Schaumburg. SPD is innovative, progressive and has talented staff that could turn an outreach vision into reality. I would enjoy being the champion of an extended outreach initiative.