John F. Kelly: 2021 candidate for Wheaton Park District board
Four candidates for three seats
Occupation: Licensed Engineer -- Construction Co. President at b. Stromberg Construction Co., Inc.
Civic involvement: Wheaton Park Board Commissioner -- Long time WPD 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 am running for reelection to my 4th term on the Board. I have been volunteering my time at the Wheaton Park District since 1992 and am hoping for the opportunity to continue doing so. I also believe that the Park District needs someone with my engineering and construction expertise to help it maintain its aging infrastructure and to help navigate the design and construction of our future improvements.
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: Yes, I believe the Park District did an excellent job of serving the people of Wheaton this past year. Our staff figured out ways to provide virtual recreation opportunities along with curbside pickup and indoor dining (when allowed) at Arrowhead Golf Club. The golf course rounds were up despite the slow start caused by the State's early restrictions and we were able to provide abbreviated youth sports programs when allowed. Cosley Zoo also had an excellent year, and the ice rinks are now open for public skating.
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 Park District did a particularly good job in responding the pandemic and I do not know what we could have done better. We followed the guidelines of the experts; kept our full-time staff employed; opened facilities as much as allowed; and managed to avoid a negative bottom line for 2020. The next crisis may be similar, or it may be completely different, but I have no doubt that the WPD will find way to serve its residents during that time.
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 Park District is a local unit of government and bound by the laws of our State which required us to adhere to the State's guidelines for reopening last summer. We took every opportunity to re start existing services and to provide innovative new services while maintaining compliance with the guidelines. Our staff found new and creative ways to provide virtual recreation projects and anyone who took advantage of our offerings could see what a great job they did.
Q: How has the pandemic affected the park district's revenue? How has that been addressed on the expense side?
A: As soon as restrictions were implemented last March, the Board met with senior staff to plan 2020. We placed a hold on all capital spending not currently under contract and delayed all but necessary maintenance projects. We challenged the staff to create programs that would provide our residents with recreation opportunities that could be performed within the State's guidelines and bring in some revenue to offset our fixed overhead expenses. We were forced to lay off many part-time employees, but we were able to shift things around and keep all full-time staff employed. While our revenues for 2020 fell by 29% of budget, we were able to drop our expenses by 38% resulting in a small bottom line increase of 1.6M for 2020.