Wilmette, Elections

How 9 Park Board candidates answered 4 questions at recent candidate forum

Civic participation has surged in Wilmette in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and the wake of the 2020 General Election.

There are contested elections for nearly every local race in town — village presidency, Village Board, District 39 School Board, Library Board — but one stands out: the Wilmette Park Board.

Nine residents — yes, nine, with just one incumbent — are contending for three open seats on the Wilmette Park Board of Commissioners, and all nine joined the League of Women Voters and the Wilmette Public Library for a virtual candidate forum on Saturday, March 13.

Close to 200 guests tuned in to the Zoom event and heard the candidates speak on everything from fiscal responsibility to Gillson Park to dog parks.

This Saturday, March 20, the league and library will again team up for aforumwith candidates for the library board, Wilmette District 39 board and New Trier District 203 board.

The candidates are (click for personal websites/bios): incumbent Bryan Abbott, and newcomers Patrick Duffy, Andrew Levy, Mark Schumacher, Kara Kosloskus, Rich DeLeo, Walter Keats, Allison Frazier and Michael Doyle.

Incumbents Gordon Anderson, the board’s president, and Amy Wolfe are not running for reelection.

Below is a summarized transcription of the March 13 event. Candidates answered in an order selected at random by organizers. A recording of the event is below:

You can use the below shortcuts to jump to any question and candidate answer.

SHORTCUTS
OPENING STATEMENT: Rich DeLeo | Michael Doyle | Kara Kosloskus | Mark Schumacher | Andrew Levy | Bryan Abbott | Allison Frazier | Patrick Duffy | Walter Keats

PROJECT PRIORITIZATION: Rich DeLeo | Michael Doyle | Kara Kosloskus | Mark Schumacher | Andrew Levy |Bryan Abbott | Allison Frazier | Patrick Duffy | Walter Keats

POST-COVID-19: Rich DeLeo | Michael Doyle | Kara Kosloskus | Mark Schumacher | Andrew Levy |Bryan Abbott | Allison Frazier | Patrick Duffy | Walter Keats

STORMWATER CONSTRUCTION: Rich DeLeo | Michael Doyle | Kara Kosloskus | Mark Schumacher | Andrew Levy |Bryan Abbott | Allison Frazier | Patrick Duffy | Walter Keats

DOG PARKS: Rich DeLeo | Michael Doyle | Kara Kosloskus | Mark Schumacher | Andrew Levy |Bryan Abbott | Allison Frazier | Patrick Duffy | Walter Keats

SUMMATIONS: Rich DeLeo | Michael Doyle | Kara Kosloskus | Mark Schumacher | Andrew Levy |Bryan Abbott | Allison Frazier | Patrick Duffy | Walter Keats


Opening Statements

RICH DELEO: I’m running for park district commissioner because I believe in the park district’s mission statement: passion about enriching the quality of community life, enhancing all the parks and facilities for promoting outdoor programs, and balancing passive and active use. My goal and priority is to work with the staff and board to complete current initiatives, such as the Gillson Park revised master plan; listening to feedback from the virtual open house; plan for future initiatives, such as green initiatives; encourage the park district to complete the IPRA scorecard and adopt a sustainability plan; to be fiscally responsible to our residents on the the expenditure of capital return on investment, an example being the golf paths as we came out of COVID. … Here are the three points that set me apart: First, my previous experience of public service in Wilmette to understand the commitment, dedication and service and appreciation of public process, community inout, collaboration between all stakeholder for the benefit of the community. Eight years on the Plan Commission. … Second, 30 years of experience in architecture and planning. (Time cutoff)

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MICHAEL DOYLE: I’m an advertising creative director by trade, so basically my expertise is listening to people and coming up with creative ways to effectively communicate with them and meet their needs. When I decided to run for the Park Board, I thought back to the first time I coached, or should I say wrangled, my daughter’s kindergarten soccer team. You showed up at Community Playfields and it’s filled with kids, parents, grandparents, people walking their dogs. It was a scene that really stuck with me. … It dawned on me at that moment that … the parks truly unite us. At a time when we could all use a little unity, our parks are a great gift, a relentless force, maybe our greatest force of unity, community and good. We should cherish them, nurture them, protect them and invest wisely in them. They are our parks, so everyone should have a voice in how they are run. … Specifically, I want to keep the community more informed, get the community more invited, create even better and more relevant programming for all ages, enhance and protect our beautiful open spaces, and spend park funds wisely and prudently.

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KARA KOSOLSKUS: I decided to run for the Park Board last summer, when it became apparent, especially after the year we’ve been through, that I am uniquely positioned to be of help to the board for two reasons. I have very direct relevant professional experience and I have a lot of firsthand knowledge with near-daily use of the Wilmette Parks. I am vice president for strategy for a facility management company. We maintain and operate buildings. … As I began to think about the Park Board, I realized that so much of what I do day in and day out is directly applicable to the Park Board — budget, hiring strategies and recruiting, technology upgrades, building consensus when you have very different personalities on a management team, and satisfying constituents who have different demands and priorities. … Serving you as a Park Board commissioner would truly be an extension of a day job, but the awesome thing would be I get to use my years’ worth of experience to better the place where I love to live and where I spend my free time. … Across my family, we’ve participated in an huge array of sports and camps, we’ve even tried square dancing.

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MARK SCHUMACHER: The question I get a lot in this campaign is why are you running. I’d like to answer that in two parts. One, I truly love our parks. It’s a major reason why we live here and I have a genuine interest to contribute to making them great and preserving our open space. Secondly, for the last 25 years, I’ve held numerous leadership positions and developed skills that I think apply to leading our parks. For example, in the last 10 years I’ve mostly worked with startups and that’s instilled a philosophy of making smart, targeted investments that have returns on those investments in creating a culture that ensures every dollar we spend goes to driving something great. Also with our parks, I’d like to see us put together plans that span for the next five or 10 years, not just Gillson but all our facilities. … I do believe that the park can innovate in a number of areas, like programming, leading on the environment, staying modern with our facilities as our community needs evolve. Lastly, the other thing I really strongly believe in is rarely is anything great achieved without the input from a wide variety of stakeholders.

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ANDREW LEVY: I believe in engaging the community is part of the price we pay to live here. It’s my time on the village’s transportation (commission) these last several years that has led me to want to get more actively involved in the future of our village as an elected official. While on the commission, I was involved in revising the master bike and active transportation plan where we had the opportunity to listen to the community and work together as a board to use that feedback. We need park district commissioners who can leverage their backgrounds as successful professional, parents and members of the community to enable ongoing strong financial planning and incorporating sustainable efforts to how the park district manages its resources. … I understand the role that a board plays in setting the vision in providing oversight to an organization. … I will seek to bring as much transparency to the decision-making process as possible.

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BRYAN ABBOTT: I’m running for one more term, and with this election, the park district board is going to lose almost all of its institutional memory and certainly with the COVID challenges, an understanding how the park district works under good times, I think it’s important. Some other commissioners have asked me to run, and I am honored to do so. I believe in financial responsibility and restraint. Taxes have gone down 9 percent since I’ve been on the board. Debt’s gone from $24 million to $7 million. That credit gets spread among a lot of people. … It’s a policy of financial restraint I’m proud to be a part of. (I am a) civil engineer, 41 years as a project manager. I’ve enjoyed using my skills on behalf of the community. I think Gillson Park benefitted from that. And my tenure has been the pursuit of community engagement, restoring Gillson, … financial restraint, and being an open and welcoming park district.

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ALLISON FRAZIER: Though it has been a challenging year, our parks, open spaces and especially our beautiful lakefront helped make this year brighter. I truly can’t imagine what my home and sanity would look like today with a baby to look after while managing twin 6-year-old boys and a 9-year-old daughter e-learning if we didn’t have our open spaces. … I believe the reason so many of us are here before you is because of that appreciation of our parks. To give back and invest our time in protecting them. Now I ask you to take that through one step further with me and electing a balanced board reflective of our entire community. To achieve that, we must include a person on the board representing the population of young families moving to Wilmette and those with children spending time every day at our parks and facilities. I am the only candidate for commissioner with children under the age of 9 . Additionally, my mom lives in Wilmette and opened my eyes to the need for affordable senior programming and accessibility to our parks. My firsthand involvement makes me uniquely suited to be a voice for every generation.

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PATRICK DUFFY: Like many residents we came here from the schools and were amazed by the parks. I’ve been a volunteer in our community for many years, from leading my daughters’ adventurer programs, to serving on Wilmette’s Zoning Board of Appeals for 10 years, where the last four years I was chairman. Initially, I was instrumental in the creation of a park in our community. That park is called Elmwood Dunes Preserve. I think these leadership roles are very important, as Mr. Abbott pointed out in a few weeks we could have a completely new board with no members that have served more than two years ago. Since my Zoning Board duties ended two summers ago, I wanted to participate in another role serving our community. As a Park Board commissioner, I’d like to continue the great work of the commissioners that have come before me. … As we emerge from the pandemic, the park district will be an essential building block to restoring our sense of community. Bringing people together through programming and outdoor activities at our parks. If elected I promise to be a good steward of the parks and programs for the residents of Wilmette. And I will continue to improve and grow facilities and services offered without any new taxes.

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WALTER KEATS: Clearly, the recreational offerings of our park district are praise-worthy. As a commissioner, one of my first efforts would be to help develop long-term plans for each of our parks to include current and potential recreational use but also to focus on preservation of local spaces and a thoughtful landscaping plan dealing with replacement of dying or intrusive plants and trees with more environmentally appropriate vegetation. In other words, put the parks back in the park district. Second, I would work to improve communications, not just for those who sign up for programs, but also with residents who for whatever reason could not have an email on file and therefore, need to be reached by postal mail. … Third I would work to improve regular cooperation with the other Wilmette governmental entities. … All the units of government in Wilmette should be working together for the betterment of our community. The current stormwater retention project is an example of several agencies working together. Although I believe the park district did not participate in as timely and in a collegial manner as it should have.

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What two projects or goals will you prioritize over the next four years?

MICHAEL DOYLE: The first project is the Gillson Master Plan … and then the second I think is an overall approach to how we unify our community around these issues, how we communicate better with them and get them involved. So the No. 1 priority of the Gillson Master Plan. There are issues that need to be addressed there — landscaping issues, movement issues within there, the roads, the way the park is connected. … In addressing those issues, we can address some other issues, like sustainability, how we make sure we are taking care of native plants and removing invasive species, how are we making that area is friendly to birds and pollinators. And then overall how are we making it more welcoming to the general community. … And the second issue again is related to community input. There are a number of people that are not familiar with the Park Board or what the Park Board is doing.

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KARA KOSLOSKUS: I would say the first priority for this year to really think about bringing people back to the parks. I really want to advocate for rebuilding the community and the camaraderie. It’s what drew our family to Wilmette. … But we need to meet people where they are right now. We need to look at the patterns from this past year and we need to get creative about the types of programs we have to find new revenue. Maybe put a pause on some other ones … but to look at the usage patterns because if we can increase the revenue we can offset the capital needs that we’ve deferred over the past year. There’s about $2.5 million of capital that we’ve paused. … The Gillson Master Plan is definitely a priority and it needs to happen, and I support what Mr. Doyle said about that. I’d like to look at the holistic picture and look for some small wins and some revenue opportunities to offset the other costs. The second thing I would focus on in my tenure would be looking at the transparency. How can we communicate more proactively with the community, especially with those who stand to be impacted by decisions the board is considering. Recently, the Mallinckrodt dog park conversation is an example where the citizens of that neighboring community felt they were not apprised of that conversation until it appeared in the news.

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MARK SCHUMACHER: When I think about two priorities, I first think about driving long-term plans for our parks. What that means to me is first finishing the work we’ve done with the Gillson Master Plan. That’s so important to our community. It’s really the crown jewel of our park system. There’s no park like it south of us, no park like it north of us. … Obviously we want to protect the wide open spaces we have. But make sure we leverage everything we have at Gillson. Continue to make it the innovative park it can be. And what I also think about long-term plans, I don’t think we should limit planning to Gillson. … I think we should have five to 10 years around all our facilities, whether that is swimming or hockey or a new facility we might need to keep up with our neighboring communities, like Skokie and Glenview, things around pickleball for example. What I’d like to see first is a master plan that’s encompassing of our entire park system, but secondly a financial plan that could help us implement that as well. (Timed out)

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ANDREW LEVY: There’s two really strong priorities that I think serve as foundational starting points for us as we look ahead. Before we get to master plans, before we start building any new facilities, we are faced with a financial shortfall with last year and into this year. … Two-thirds of the revenues are driven by user fees and COVID will continue to impact that budget. My first priority would be to prioritize spending, take a hard look at our capital requirements, and really think through what money do we have to spend. Only then can we really start talking about master plans. … What does our financial revenue projection look like over the next one, two, maybe even three years so we can plan accordingly. The second foundational priority we should focus on is reviving the intergovernmental cooperation that hasn’t met in almost two years and it goes to a lot of issues that you hear across the candidates. Whether that’s working with D39, working with the village or communications.

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BRYAN ABBOTT: COVID is the big thing. It’s kind of a cliche. We’re in the middle of it. We lost about $8 million in revenues, but we limped out of the year barely in the black through a lot of cutting. It has thrown a lot of our planning into question. So, re-engaging the public. … The park district runs as a business and we need those revenues. That’s what drives our dream. Gillson is really important, you’re going to hear it over and over again, and (renovations are) pretty modest. We’re talking about roads, drainage, sidewalks, landscaping plans. Stormwater is important and we want to make sure we keep listening to the community and the neighbors. I keep saying no losers. If we are going to help west Wilmette, and need to, we got to make sure we don’t hurt the parks.

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ALLISON FRAZIER: My aim and two priorities are to leave the park district in better shape financially and physically than I found it. I plan to do so through a platform I created called Active Together, which is re-engaging our community in the conversation top-down. Candidate Levy mentions the intergovernmental cooperation committee, which has not been in touch now for two years. I’ve had a number of conversations with fellow candidates, park commissioners and trustees about restarting this. I next look to the capital plan and I think that infrastructure is absolutely a priority and it shows our current commissioners have done their homework in wanting to keep our roads and drainage safe. … I think by making our parks a representation of our taxpayer dollars and the residents here we will drive more people, both residents and nonresidents, to our local businesses.

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PATRICK DUFFY: The two I have heard the most are Gillson and communication. … We’ve been working on Gillson Master Plan for over 10 years, so it would be nice to move this forward. I think that I’ve demonstrated through Elmwood Dunes — putting together community, park district, village — that I am a collaborative worker and I can bring people together and move projects forward. …Communication: The park district has ideas, with plans, to communicate those to people, but also the opportunity to take feedback as we come out of COVID — programs that people would like to participate in. … As an example, spin class was outside. I think a lot of people would love to continue as the weather is nice to have the opportunity to have some indoor classes outside. So feedback from residents will drive new programs and new opportunities.

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WALTER KEATS: I am certainly in favor of having some financial planning, which I think does go on. We obviously had a problem last year and will continue to have one this year. But the biggest problem I think is that we don’t have plans for each of the parks. We just react ad hoc to things — somebody says they want a dog park or somebody says a track or restrooms or whatever. The only one that has a plan is the Gillson Master Plan, which is wonderful, but we should be doing that for each park and not just where do we put the trees and the flowers, but a long-term thing that says what are the activities in these parks, what activities might be appropriate going forward. Try to anticipate a little. You can Google anything today, so we can find out whether pickleball or disc golf are interesting, but we need to have plans for each of these parks that go out 10 years or not so we know where we’re going and where to put things and where not to put things. And to restore the parks, not just recreational activities.

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RICH DELEO: Two priorities for me are Gillson Park and green initiatives. When we look at Gillson Park, we need to look at that as a holistic approach to how all the other parks work in the park district. … At Gillson, I think you need to connect with the park itself and how it interacts with the beach and other areas around the park. … I think the state of the park will dictate the next steps. I think we’re all on the same page in priorities with circulation and infrastructure and what’s above and below the ground in regard to what’s in the ground. In regard to green initiatives, I encourage the park district to work with Go Green and the village and adopt its sustainability plan and complete the IPRA environment report card and assess our environment impact and going forward both look at conserving energy and also impact on the current environment.

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What concerns or opportunities, if any, do you see with transitioning back to live programming after COVID-19?

KARA KOSOLSKUS: When I started attending Park Board meetings last summer, I was there to advocate for reopening the pool and reopening some of the programming at the center fitness club and trying to get outdoor classes. So I was following the board of commissioner meetings to try to encourage them, as some of our neighboring communities were doing, that this was an important value and some of us had kids that were bouncing off the walls … and I said if you would let them swim in the pool, they exercise without knowing it. … I really think COVID has given us a disruption, whether we wanted it or not, but disruptions are good sometimes. Disruptions are a great time to take a step back and look at the future and reimagine where we want to go. You have to do that to be successful or else you can be left behind. And I think for Wilmette, as I mentioned earlier, we do have that deferred capital to wrestle with, but we have a lot of opportunity.

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MARK SCHUMACHER: First of all, when I think about reopening, I really think we need to acknowledge what the current park district board and staff have done with this pandemic. None of us knew how to adjust to this, but when I look at the success we had with summer camps, moving activities outdoors … I’ve seen a lot of these in our parks. I think that’s really been an innovation. I’m really proud of the work they’ve done. … This is still going to be a transition year, but build on the successes we have. Continue to look at, let’s push activities outdoors where we can. … The other thing I’m thinking about that Kara makes a good point about is the pool. We didn’t get a lot of pool time last year. I think opening the pool safely with limited numbers … is a huge asset to the community.

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ANDREW LEVY: We’re blessed here in Wilmette for not only a diversity of facilities but some wonderful open spaces and we now know with COVID we can take advantage of open parks, beaches, sailing, tennis, all these things we can do outside with friends and family. … But it’s really not just about a facility and programs. As a community, we need to be actively engaging as a park district to get things back up and running. The park district is actually the largest employer in the village (in the summer months), so we’re a key contributor to the economic health of the village itself. We bring people in from across the North Shore … and that all drives economic activity. It’s important for us to take advantage of the lessons that we’ve learned as a park district and as a community to what is now possible at the tail end of the pandemic.

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BRYAN ABBOTT: Staff were heroes last year, and they still are. They kept the parks open, the beach open despite the fact that Chicago and Evanston were closing their beaches. It was a struggle but people needed to get into the parks. The parks stayed open; the facilities took it on the nose. … We’re looking at a pretty solid summer. We really want to pick up and go, and certainly revenues are dependent on a solid summer as well. The goal in May we’re pushing into basically a restart of programs, and the fall, hopefully, we can hit the ground running again, but we got to re-engage the community, in terms of their habits and using the park district.

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ALLISON FRAZIER: Twenty-five percent of Illinois is vaccinated (at least one dose). I just read that yesterday, and I mentioned my mother is a widow and moved her from my home state of Rhode Island. … You asked about concerns and opportunities and I see a tremendous opportunity for some of most isolated groups of individuals in our community and I happen to have both of them in my family: One is the senior population who have been afraid to engage in any in-person activities and the second is the 0-9 population who have just begun, but so much of our programming stems from. I think our park district staff did a phenomenal job especially in terms of communicating COVID cases and offering unique types of programming. … Looking at places like that to think outside of the box to offer revenue-generating programs will be our next step.

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PATRICK DUFFY: This is really an exciting moment, where the park district is going to show its strength. As we emerge from the pandemic, the park district has an excellent opportunity to create community. … People are looking for opportunities to expand what their interests are. Pickleball, that’s an easy one. We could put buoys in the lake that measure distance so we can create open-water swim classes and new opportunities to drive some revenue down there. … We could also increase communication via an app that lets people — if COVID comes back or if something else is created — get contacted more directly because we will know through the app what they signed up for, where they’ve been, and I think that will improve some communication on that side but also creates marketing opportunities. “Hey you just finished this class, do you want to sign up for the intermediate class?” There’s a lot of opportunities as we emerge from this pandemic to take advantage of.

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WALTER KEATS: As COVID is receding and people get vaccinated and things open up, the park district will be able to resume programs and also come up with some new and more innovative ones, as conditions allow. And that’s really the key. Today, you still have problems, but two months from now and hopefully by June … if everything is going according to plan, and it seems to be pretty well, hopefully we will be able to resume these programs that provide jobs and also the revenue for the park district. All we can do is keep watching and be ready and ready to roll things out as the conditions allow.

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RICH DELEO: Plan a direction and the planning of the park district not only balanced budget, look at increasing the sources of revenue, also looking at deferred maintenance and maintaining existing buildings as well as capital planning for future buildings. I think on the other side is to the users and I think we need to go back to the community and residents and find out the impact of COVID. How it affected their programming, the use of the facilities, alternate uses they like that were provided and other things we can provide for both teens, seniors and youth. Community is a big thing there. COVID impacts all users.

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What, if any, specific improvements will you pursue in the parks that have undergone stormwater construction and how will you garner community support?

MARK SCHUMACHER: The parks that have been of most discussion is the Community Playfields and Thornwood. And with this construction and with the stormwater there is opportunity, and with that opportunity, to take in the concerns of the neighbors. Really happy to see how they have participated in the process over the last few months. At the Community Playfields, this is a heavily used facility. Bathrooms, I think we should use the junior high for the next year, along with temporary bathrooms and look at that long term. I think we should go forward with a walking path. At Thornwood, I do believe that is a community park; that is not a city park as much. So I respect the wishes of the neighbors there. I think we should continue in the temporary bathrooms in the summer months.

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ANDREW LEVY: I think this issue on the stormwater improvements is actually representative of a missed opportunity for us as a community. … We’ve gone so far down the road at the Community Playfields, and now we are starting to focus around how we can work with (District) 39 and the bathrooms that already exist right there off the fields. I think we missed an opportunity there to get more creative and engage on an intergovernmental basis. It sounds like through a lot of work the current board has started to narrow down and provide more information to the neighboring community around the Community Playfields about what this may look like, and I think that’s an important part of an ongoing process that we need to support. And Thornwood, I think it’s unfortunate we’re stuck talking about bathrooms when we could be talking about other things there and we probably need to look at Thornwood like a neighborhood park going forward and what that means for stormwater.

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BRYAN ABBOTT: It’s been a learning process. If the board I sit on is going to take criticism, that is probably deserved; although, I think the board has learned the lessons and tried to engaged more with the community. Certainly I’ve been pushing for community engagement. We’ve heard again and again that they want the parks preserved. It wasn’t about amenities. It was about the parks. And if we are going to put these tanks in and deal with that, that’s fine, but put our park back the way it was. I think that’s important. In regard to specifics, running path; I was pretty leary. I see a lot of community support, as long as it’s permeable. I don’t want any pavement put in. As far as bathrooms, let’s see how the junior high works at Community Playfields. Thornwood, I’m really skeptical. I’m more interested in putting these parks back … and improvements not so much.

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ALLISON FRAZIER: My approach villagewide for every park in our village is to plan for multigenerational use of the parkland. I think this is one of the finest examples of the division of passive and enjoyment use of our parkland. I think in this case more than others, we need to make sure we are listening to the residents who believe this land is their backyard. … I agree with candidate Levy, hearing that the bathrooms were going to be available at the junior high was a tremendous win, and I want to have these conversations sooner through our intergovernmental cooperation committee to be … ahead of the problem, rather than behind it.

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PATRICK DUFFY: This has been a reminder … of my time on the Zoning Board. I would get a packet and I would read the packet about someone’s application for a variances, I would have an opinion, I would go to the site, I would walk the site and I would think, ‘OK maybe I change my opinion,’ then we’d get to meeting and the residents would come and say how they felt and as a board member, you can never form your opinion if you didn’t live there or by it, or you weren’t the one using it. … Often that changed my view during the meeting. So in a nutshell, I’m against bathrooms at Thornwood and I would love to see the bathroom situation work out at the Community Playfields at the junior high. I support the walking path, exercise path at the Playfields as well.

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WALTER KEATS: To me, the real problem at Community Playfieds is there wasn’t a plan. So each of these things was sort of ad hoc. As you may remember, when originally putting in the vault, they were going to chop down 20 to 30 trees to do that. So again, no plan. … With community involvement, they realized they should be saving the tress, so they did. Then there’s a question of the restrooms, but for some reason nobody figured out the restrooms at Wilmette Junior High. I was able to go and see them and take pictures and show people that they existed and they worked. … The path … I’m in agreement at this point because it’s intergovernmental agreement with D39.

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RICH DELEO: (We need to) look at the benefit of what was done there, benefit to the village, neighborhood and community. It impacts the housing around there and the rest of that neighborhood. The one thing talked about before about what was planned there and programming there, for the park district to look at a usage survey to look at what activities were there before and opportunity of new ones, not only a fitness path, but maybe some outdoor programming, programs that are available to both the high school, the junior high and the middle school.

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MICHAEL DOYLE: Ithink that these issues around bathrooms, especially, have really pointed out the importance of getting community input and making sure all voices are heard on these issues, because it’s important to do that before you take action. At Community Playfields, I love the idea of looking at existing bathrooms we already have within the junior high and seeing if that works first before we go building any structures. Thornwood, I don’t see the need for a permanent bathroom there, so I would not be supportive of that. I love the idea of the trail. I ran cross-country at high school … but it’s gotta be a mile, can’t make it three-quarters or half, got to be a mile. I think it would be a fantastic addition to that area.

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KARA KOSOLSKUS: In a nutshell, the stormwater project was a good example of cooperation between our governmental agencies, but there is more communication that can happen. I would like to as a member of the Park Board to regularly sit in their meetings and make sure we have that back and forth. … I would like to say that my daughter and I lobbied the Park Board several years ago to ask for the fitness path. … I was appalled that the track season also involved putting cones out and guessing how far they were going to run. And so I think a fitness path, absolutely nonpermeable, not only better for the environment but better for our knees, would be preferred. In the other parks, I think we need to think about a destination park rather than a community park and I don’t think bathrooms are the right conversation. To the point about how are we going to get community support. We need to reach out. I think mailers and letting people in immediate vicinity in those parts, they need to know what’s happening.

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What are your thoughts — good, bad, indifferent — about a fenced, safe dog park in Wilmette, in addition to the dog beach, and how much of a priority is this for you?

ANDREW LEVY: I think it’s a medium priority. I think we need to be conscious about where we are spending our money and need to be really cautious about where we might put it. Officially, the proposal on Mallinckrodt was misplaced.

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BRYAN ABBOTT: Mallinckordt was misplaced. Badly designed. I think we need a dog park. Not that expensive. We’ve seen the need for a dog park particularly with COVID. … The two that are under consideration, they have my backing. Let’s get the details right though.

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ALLISON FRAZIER: I think public demand where capital is spent, and it is clearly where our community members say they want the money. It is a low-cost option, which would involve high engagement. I do not support Mallickrodt. I do support looking at options at Howard.

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PATRICK DUFFY: I agree with the other candidates. Mallinckrodt just a poor choice. It’s too beautiful a park to put any fencing in. I do agree that we need on the west, which is being used but not designated yet. And one in the center of the village would be great.

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WALTER KEATS: Part of the rationale for all this is supposedly more dogs in Wilmette, but if you look at the data, there is no evidence — Wilmette registration, park district permits, Cook County rabies — that there are more dogs. If anything there is a decrease. We should be focusing on the West Park.

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RICH DELEO:I think it’s a medium priority. I think we need an alternate to the dog run at the beach. I believe in a central location. Howard being one to consider.

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MICHAEL DOYLE: My dog wants one so I say yes. I think it needs to be in the center of the community. Dogs bring us together. Brings humans and canines together. So definitely, 100 percent, yes, yes, yes. Woof. Woof.

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KARA KOSOLSKUS: Mallinckrodt, no: 1.4 acres there is too much to fence in and that’s not what it is for. I’d also like to see us enhance some of the existing parks we have. I think they could put some doggy fountains, doggy amenities at both the east beach and west lot. They are fencing in, which is great news.

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MARK SCHUMACHER: I absolutely support a dog park in central or west Wilmette, so does my dog, Cookie. Just a matter of finding where in west and central Wilmette. Not in support of Mallinckrodt for the reasons mentioned before. But I do think this a low-cost, high-value amenity for our community.

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SUMMATIONS

PATRICK DUFFY: I love our parks and I love outdoor spaces. I love them so much I was instrumental in the creation of a new park, Elmwood Dunes Preserve. The park district is in strong financial health and is ramping up to serve the community as we emerge from the pandemic, and I want to continue to excel the outstanding parks and amenities offered to our residents. In a nutshell, as I mentioned, I am happy with Wilmette Junior High for offering bathrooms. I am against bathrooms at Thornwood Park. I’m against the dog at Mallinckrodt. At the sailing beach, I would love to see improved bathrooms and an improved sailing shed for offices and an instruction area. I’d like to explore new programming. I’d like to see some solar panels at the community rec center. I’d like to see other opportunities for environmental engagement.

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ALLISION FRAZIER: I look forward to creating a board representative of the greater community of Wilmette. To achieve that end, we must seek balance on voting day. My firsthand involvement spanning multiple ages and interests in park district use makes me uniquely suited to be a voice for every generation. I will balance the board an expand dialogue among commissioners and our community. … My family loves the parks. It’s what attracted us to Wilmette and kept us sane the past year. My priority as your candidate is to leave this small slice of the world that I love in better shape than I found it.

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BRYAN ABBOTT: I do have a long track record of community service, fiscal responsibility, community engagement, advocacy. None of that is that important right now. Candidates and commissioners sometimes act like they are scared of losing votes. I would rather win votes. Nobody remembers if you sit silently and you don’t stand up for your values. It’s never been my intent to silently sit on my commissioners seat. I’m not here to reward selfish thinking. I am a rich man, not because of my bank account, but because I am generous with my time and my spirit. Likewise, I believe Wilmette is rich, not because it’s affluent, there are richer towns, but I don’t want to live in those towns. Wilmette is rich because we are a community. We may not always agree but we are neighbors. We are generous with our time and our spirit. … So be generous of spirit and be kind. If I leave a residue on the seat I sit in, let it be that.

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ANDREW LEVY: Our family moved to Wilmette initially for the high quality schools, but it is the community and role of the park district plays in bringing us together that has enriched our lives. Our park district has been well run and is fundamentally sound; however, COVID has impacted its finances and it needs people with finance, planning and budgeting experience in order to rebuild. That is not to say the park district should just be viewed through an account lens. Its open spaces, programs and parks are necessary and healthy outlets for all of us. We also have the opportunity to partner more closely with stakeholders and governmental entities to develop our priorities and enhance the decision-making process.

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MARK SCHUMACHER: I really believe in innovation for our programming, facilities and long-term planning. But with that the financial responsibility, especially important to recover from COVID. The one thing we didn’t get a chance to talk about today, but I do want to stress my support of our statement of inclusion and look forward to operationalizing this if elected. I echo the statements today about forming strong relationships with the village and D39. But most importantly, if elected, I promise to listen to your opinions, to be educated on the issues and represent the community interest in the parks.

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KARA KOSLOSKUS: This is a critical time in our community. There is a lot of exciting work ahead of us, and there are financial tradeoffs that are coming as well. Serving on the Park Board would be an extension of what I do day in and day out. … I’ve already spent nine months preparing for this position on the Park Board and I’m ready to dig in. I truly think this is the right time to work side by side with the current commissioners and alongside the staff and with the community to put the last 14 years of my time as a working mom. Who knew it would be this relevant to this time and place we are in. I would love to make sure our amazing parks and park district are in a position to thrive, not only in coming out of the pandemic but well into the future generations.

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MICHAEL DOYLE: I’m running for the board because I want to give back for a park district and a community that has given my family many gifts. Whether it was coaching soccer, hanging at the beach or watching my daughter perform on stage, some of my best memories are made in these parks. My professional life as a creative director has been about listening to people challenging preconceived notions and coming up with creative solutions. I think this board and this community can benefit from that. The park district has a great mission, but what it needs now is a vision, one that acknowledges the incredible unifying value the parks bring us.

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RICH DELEO: Our park district is a tremendous asset to the community and part of the fabric of our lives. … The strength of my candidacy is experience in both public service and professional work that would be an asset to the park district, working with staff and current commissioners on current and future park district initiatives, as well as reviewing capital investment return. … I have passion, dedication and commitment to public service to serve current and future residents to protect, preserve, enhance and expand our parks and programs.

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WALTER KEATS: As a commissioner my first effort would be to help develop these long-term plans for the parks to include current and potential recreational uses, but also to focus preservation of open spaces, a thoughtful landscaping plan, dealing with replacement of dying of intrusive plants and trees, replacing with more environmentally appropriate vegetation. In other words, put the parks back in the park district. Second, I would work to improve communications not just with those who sign up for our programs, but also with those residents who for whatever reason do not have an email address on file. …Third, I would promote regular improved communication with other governmental entities, including the village, Districts 37 and 39, and the library.

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joe coughlin
Joe Coughlin

Joe Coughlin is a co-founder and the editor in chief of The Record. He leads investigative reporting and reports on anything else needed. Joe has been recognized for his investigative reporting and sports reporting, feature writing and photojournalism. Follow Joe on Twitter @joec2319

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