Mary Gibson: 2021 candidate for Naperville Park District board
Mary Gibson is one of eight candidates running for four seats on the Naperville Park District board in the April 6, 2021, election.
Occupation: I paused my career as a director at a data analytics firm to stay home with my children while they are young.
Civic involvement: I am a trained member of Naperville's Community Emergency Response Team and am enrolled in the Naperville's Citizen Police Academy. For the past two years, I've facilitated a book group at a local bookshop designed to foster civil discourse among people with differing political views.
Q: Why are you running for this office, whether for re-election or election the first time? Is there a particular issue that motivates you, and if so, what is it?
A: I am a mother of three young kids and a former director at a data analytics firm where I advised Fortune 500 companies, government entities, and non-profits on public sentiment, unforeseen risks and strategic opportunities. After being a working parent for a while, I made the decision to pause my career to stay home with my growing family. The park district became a lifeline for us. I signed my kids up for everything I could; and there are a lot of insights I've learned along the way. I think the perspective and insights of a young parent actively participating in the wide range programs our park district offers is missing from the board. Boards are most useful when they reflect the communities they serve. If elected, I will bring my perspective as a parent of young kids, as well as my experience, education, skills and values to the Board. I will prioritize quality and affordable programing, commit to making Naperville Park District a leader in environmental stewardship and sustainability, and will be fiscally responsible -- ensuring that park district funds and resources are spent directly fulfilling its mission of helping the people of Naperville lead healthy lives.
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: Outside of the Board's decision to sue the Governor over the state's lockdown orders, I think the Naperville did well serving its constituents and fulfilling its mission during the pandemic. The park district was agile and innovative in its pivot to virtual offerings and outdoor fitness classes. In particular, the Naperville Park District has been recognized for its leadership in the field of esports. The park district was able to adapt existing, beloved Naperville traditions like the Santa House and Halloween Happenings so that the children of Naperville could still enjoy some Halloween fun and visit with Santa, albeit in a modified and safe way. My family enjoyed both events and I was very grateful for the hard work of the Naperville Park District staff to bring children joy during what was a very difficult year.
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: I think the risk of COVID-19 transmission will be with us as a community for a while. It is critical that the Naperville Park District be prepared in fulfil its mission of providing recreation and park experiences that promote healthy lives, healthy minds and a healthy community during the ongoing pandemic and in any future public health crisis. The park district must balance the recommendations of health professionals,
government regulations, and the needs of the community. Public health and safety should always be a priority. I think the commitment to cleanliness in our facilities should continue to be a priority moving forward, as well as the focus on handwashing for early childhood education programs. I would like to see many of our virtual offerings continue beyond the pandemic. Virtual offerings have made the park district more accessible to people in our community who may not have been able to participate in person for a variety of reasons.
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: While the ability of the Naperville Park District to provide many of its in-person offerings has fluctuated throughout the pandemic, the park district has been able to adapt by increasing its outdoor fitness offerings and its virtual offerings to compensate for facility closures and capacity limits. The park board should look to continue and expand it's virtual and outdoor offerings both during and beyond the pandemic, as these mediums expand the accessibility of the park district offerings for more members of our community who may not be able to participate in in-person activities for a variety of reasons.
Q: How has the pandemic affected the park district's revenue? How has that been addressed on the expense side?
A: Like most other organizations, the pandemic has had a negative effect on the park district's revenue. However, the park district was able to weather the negative financial impact of the pandemic by relying on its healthy reserves, delaying some capital projects, cost reductions, and increased scrutiny of expenditures over $1,000. Notably, the Naperville Park District has maintained its Moody's Aaa bond rating, based on the district's financial position and reserves.