Bob Thomson: 2023 candidate for St. Charles Park District board
Town: St. Charles
Age on Election Day: 67
Occupation: Retired technology education teacher
Previous offices held: St. Charles Park District Commissioner 1999 -- Present, Fox Valley Special Recreation Association Board 1999 -- Present
Q: Why are you running for this office, whether for reelection or election the first time? Is there a particular issue that motivates you, and if so, what is it?
A: I am running for reelection because I wish to continue the great progress made within the Park District during my time serving as a commissioner. I want to ensure that we move the park district forward and remain cognizant of the use of tax dollars.
Through the continued implementation of our comprehensive master and strategic plans, the board is being pro-active in land acquisition. We are strengthening our partnerships with the private and public sector.
Further, we are pursuing grants to fund various capital projects whenever possible. We currently have a well-functioning board.
More importantly, we have great employees, facilities, and programs. Our staff was remarkable in how they steered the park district through the pandemic, always re-imagining ways to provide programs given the challenging circumstances. There is no specific area or issue that motivates me. We are a part district that offers something for everyone, and I want to be part of making sure that continues.
I will continue to do my part to seek, hire and keep the most qualified professionals to maintain our parks, facilities, and programs in response to community needs.
Q: How well is your district rebounding from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic? What new measures should be taken to strengthen programming or better meet the needs of the community?
A: I believe that we have done an excellent job in rebounding. Our staff, with board support, was very creative and did a remarkable job in keeping programs running and facilities open. Safety guidelines were implemented to ensure that our participants and staff were not put in harms way.
The park district in reinventing moved many programs outdoors, created virtual programs, and revamped special events. Parks became community hubs where it provided space and an opportunity to make connections. In the end, it was successful. We continue to stay abreast of any circumstances which might necessitate modification of health and safety protocols and communicating those modifications to staff and community members alike.
Q: How would you describe the state of the district's finances? What challenges do you see on the horizon, and how do you propose to meet them?
A: It is the mission of the Park District to enrich the quality of the life of Park District residents through excellence in programs, parks, facilities, and services. We rely on tax dollars as well as program fees to cover the costs of what we offer to our residents in all these areas.
Most of our program fees and charges are paid for by the participants that are enrolled in our programs. Our organization is very conscious of the cost of these offerings. We value the input of all stakeholders when deciding upon program alterations. We are challenged by the increased cost of paying staff given the increase in the minimum wage.
We strive to ensure that we are paying competitive wages to retain current qualified employees and to attract new candidates as positions open.
Lastly, we are challenged to maintain our existing facilities as well as upgrading them when needed. We pay for these things through tax dollars, participant fees, and grants wherever available and applicable. We look for alternate revenue sources and engage in partnerships which saves tax dollars, such as that with D303 with the use of Haines, Norris Recreation Center and before and after school programs.
Q: Describe your experience working in a group setting to determine policy. What is your style in such a setting to reach agreement? Explain how you think that will be effective in producing effective actions and decisions of your park board.
A: My style is cooperative and collaborative. I share my thoughts and ideas, but always with an open mind to other's suggestions. My experience and participation serving on several boards has provided me with knowledge and ideas that I wouldn't have been able to draw upon otherwise.
The work of the park board is done within policies that have been generated and approved the board. Our work is always done with those policies at the forefront of what we do. Our park district has been recognized as an Illinois Distinguished Agency by the Illinois Association of Park Districts and the Illinois Park and Recreation Association.
As a board, we had to review every district policy to achieve this recognition. As a member of the FVSRA board, we were recognized as an Illinois Distinguished Agency as well where I participated in the same review of their policies.
Q: What makes you the best candidate for the job?
A: My history of experience with participation in, and knowledge of the Park District and its partners speaks for itself. My wife and I have lived in St. Charles for 37 years and raised our three children here. Our two grandchildren enjoy our parks and facilities when they come to visit.
Volunteering as a park district commissioner has afforded me many valuable opportunities, across many platforms to serve the community. As a park board representative to the Fox Valley Special Recreation Association, I have served on that board for 24 years.
This has given me a better understanding of the types of programs and facilities best suited for those with special needs. I represent the park district on the Intergovernmental Committee comprised of representatives from local agencies. I have served as a park district representative on the Norris Cultural Arts Center Board and the Campton Fields Board. During my tenure, there has been substantial development of James O Breen Park and its facilities, the East Side Sports Complex, River Bend Park, Sportsplex, and Delnor Woods.
Additionally, we have intergovernmental agreements with the school district for facility use at Haines and the management of the Norris Recreation Center. We have other agreements with the Forest Preserve at River Bend Park and the East Side Sports Complex. I believe the depth and breadth of my experience would continue to add much to the park district.