Matt Rodgers: 2023 candidate for St. Charles Park District board
Town: St. Charles
Age on Election Day: 38
Occupation: Assistant State's Attorney
Employer: Kane County State's Attorney
Previous offices held: None
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'm running because I love St. Charles and its parks, and I believe I could be an asset to the community.
I'm in my 30s with two young kids, and currently, there is no one like that on the park district board.
My family and I are frequent park district users -- whether that's spending a Saturday at Mt. St. Mary's Park or Pottawatomie or a summer day swimming at Otter Cove.
Because of that, I'm in touch with residents and have developed ideas of what works and what doesn't.
The park district rightly serves people of all ages. But when so much of the programming is geared toward families and kids, it just makes sense to have at least one person with that perspective on the park board. Right now that is not the case.
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: The St. Charles Park District has rebounded well from the pandemic.
Attendance was excellent at Otter Cove and Swanson Pool last year, and membership at Norris Recreation Center is getting back to pre-pandemic levels.
The pandemic was a time of isolation for so many and the rebound speaks to the value residents get from the community and the belonging the park district fosters.
To better meet community needs, I would like to see a few things.
First, more child swimming lessons offered during the off season. Any parent who has tried to sign their kids up only to be placed on the waitlist knows what I'm talking about. Helping kids become proficient swimmers is a safety issue and benefits the community as a whole.
I would also like to see more affordable spaces for lease/rent within the district. Whether that's baseball fields or small group settings for artists or musicians, I've talked to many residents who believe these prices are too high.
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: Park district funding comes primarily from district taxpayers, and I believe it is a core responsibility of the board to spend those funds wisely and efficiently.
Because of the district's popularity and high usage, many of the major facilities such as Norris Recreation Center and Otter Cove operated at a budget surplus (revenue exceeding expenditures) during the past year.
We should push to continue this trend and one of my goals as a member of the board would be to avoid any tax increases.
Being fiscally prudent will help us meet and overcome unpredictable future challenges.
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: As a career prosecutor and generally in life, my approach has always been listen first. We as a society spend so much time talking and not enough time listening. I try hard to be well-informed on any particular topic before speaking out.
In this case, that means listening to park district staff and the opinions of other board members. But most importantly, it means listening to feedback from residents and park district users. As far as actions, I believe in practical compromise. I will fight for my beliefs, but I'll never let my ego stand in the way of getting the best result for constituents.
Q: What makes you the best candidate for the job?
A: I've been a prosecutor for almost 12 years and am committed to the public good. But what really qualifies me is my experience as a resident, father, and frequent park district user. Spending time with other residents and listening to what they have to say is something I do on a daily basis.
People should rightly be proud of the park district here in St. Charles. But it's time for some new ideas and a fresh perspective on the board. I will bring that.