Thomas Hummel: 2021 candidate for Lisle Park District board
4 candidates for three seats
Occupation: Accounting Manager for Insurance Company
Civic involvement: Lisle Library Board (President 2019 -- Current, Vice President (2017 -2019), Kiwanis Club of Lisle (2016 -- Current), Co-organizer of Downtown Lisle Car Shows, and President of Meadows HOA (2019 -- current), and Eyes to the Skies Volunteer
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 have served on the Lisle Library Board for the past eight years. I am proud of our accomplishments as we have cut our tax levy, three years in a row, resulting in over an 18% reduction in taxes, while improving services. I believe I can bring some of that experience to the Park District -- improving opportunities and doing it in a fiscally conservative manner. I would like to see the Park District be an active partner in Lisle's Bike and Pedestrian Plan. Other goals for the next fours, I would like to see better prioritization on capital projects that benefit the community. Partnering with Dupage Convention and Visitors Bureau to help bring Sports Tourism to Lisle, which will help local businesses and hotels, as we come out of the pandemic. To be clear though, this should be done while not compromising access to local residents. I want to pay off the two bonds, coming off the books in the next two years and not reissue anymore debt in its place. I also want to improve transparency by video recording meetings. Finally, have a more competitive bidding process on contracts and services.
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: The Park District had a very challenging year this last year, but was creative with coming up with some opportunities for folks to still be engaged as much as permitted by the state. One of the better programs was the Remote Enrichment Center, which helped families with children throughout this past school year. The Drive-In Movie night was also a success and it was a good to see the intergovernmental collaboration to put on that event. My two main criticism with the Park District during the past year was they should NOT have delayed the canoe launch on the East Branch of the DuPage River (again) and instead constructed it. The canoe launch could have been enjoyed by folks for part of last summer and this spring/early summer. Outdoor recreation increased exponentially across the country this past year and this was probably a missed opportunity for the Park District. The second was their decision to reopen the Wheatstack Restaurant in mid-April 2020, during the middle of the pandemic, resulting in over $200,000 in losses.
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: The Park District should follow Health Department and CDC guidelines for indoor programming. But, I can't wait to see the Park District fully reopen under safe conditions as soon as possible. I'm sure people with be cognizant of social distancing for a while after COVID. Probably the biggest safeguard long term will be keeping facilities clean and sanitized which may help reduce seasonal flu or colds.
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: The pandemic definitely affected recreation programs and facilities this past year. The pool was closed and many programs cut. A couple of bright spots were more people outside in the parks and the River Bend Golf Course having a record breaking year in revenue despite being closed or having limited use for some of the season. That did help make up for some of the lost revenue. I think priority should be given to Lisle residents first to use programs and facilities, before being offered to nonresidents. As far as other ways to fulfill the mission, I would like to see the Park District be an active partner in implementing the Lisle Bike and Pedestrian Plan, especially in regards to bike paths. I would love to see our trails connect to the County bike trails in the not too distant future. I would like to a new bike trail that runs along the eastern border of the District and connects to the bike trails in Woodridge.
Q: How has the pandemic affected the park district's revenue? How has that been addressed on the expense side?
A: Recreation program revenue was down significantly this past year and probably will be a little slow coming back in the upcoming months. Staff did address this by making extremely tough but necessary decisions to cut expenses. We can hope the Park District will be fully open at some point this year for folks to enjoy and in the process help bring revenue back up. I think staff presented a decent budget by being modest with their projected revenues for this year. As we come out of the pandemic, this will give us an opportunity to reevaluate our needs as well as our expenses. Some of this may be out of necessity depending on how revenue bounces back. But I would also like to see the Park District run a little more efficiently as well in the future.