Candidate Name: Leslie Ruffing
Office Seeking: Park District Board of Commissioners
Campaign Website: www.lesliefornapervilleparks.com
Closest Park: Rose Hill Farms Park & Frontier Park
Occupation and/or Professional Training: Structured Settlement Annuity Broker for over 15 years, along with maintaining a Life, Health & Accident insurance license.
How long in years have you been a Naperville resident? 9 years
Community Service on Boards and Commissions with dates served:
I have served as chairperson on multiple PTA committees including: STEAM Day, Community Service, and Health & Safety Awareness. I have also served as the Social Chair for the Ashbury Alligators Swim Team.
The following answers have only been edited for formatting purposes.
1. Why are you running to serve the Naperville Park District Board of Commissioners?
My husband and I moved to Naperville nine years ago and have felt incredibly lucky to be raising our two daughters here. I have been dedicated to a variety of local volunteer opportunities with my focus in recent years on gun violence prevention and gun safety advocacy. Along with regularly volunteering at my daughters’ elementary school and serving as co-leader for my eldest daughter’s Girl Scout troop, giving back to this resource rich community is important to me. I am passionate about public service, and after much thought and consideration I have decided to serve at a higher level.
2. What is the park district’s most pressing need?
I made the decision to run for this office for many reasons, but one of the main reasons was the need for a more diverse Park District Board. I believe that the voices of parents with young children, especially Mothers, has been absent from the Board for too long. I intend to advocate for all resident’s Park District needs not just for those who look like me or have the same political beliefs. I believe that better Board representation will result in a Park District that appeals to every age, gender, culture and interest.
3. What’s the best way to engage the community while planning Capital Projects?
Each summer, the Naperville Park District holds an Open House to receive community input on projects proposed for the following year. Perhaps incentivizing the public to attend the Open House could increase attendees and ultimately increase awareness. This could be an opportunity to allow for local small businesses to bring their goods to the public in a ‘farmer’s market’ style and make the event more exciting for attendees. The Park District hosts a lot of events each summer and making the Capital Projects information more available at some of these events would be a great way to spread awareness to the public.
4. Name three park district policies that need review or immediate attention.
While in large part the Park District policies in place are effective, I do recognize that there are areas in which an update is warranted. I would like to explore ways in which high interest activity sign-ups, such as Youth Soccer, can be more inclusive to parents that may not have the flexibility to refresh their browsers at 10:01 on a Tuesday morning to score a roster spot. I’d also like to learn more about how audit programs can be utilized to ensure programs are operating as intended. In regard to Board specific policies I am committed to reviewing ways in which the mission, vision, and values of the Park District are updated to recognize a more inclusive overall environment.
5. How often are you in touch with members of the current park board? And do you attend/watch park board meetings live or after they’re saved in the archive?
While I don’t regularly communicate with the current board members, I do follow the meetings and meeting agendas closely. As a candidate for Board Commissioner I believe it is important to familiarize myself with the workings of the Board meetings and to educate myself on the upcoming projects. If elected, I would encourage public feedback as I believe the Park District is at its best when it works for all the residents of the community.
6. What up-and-coming City of Naperville development will impact park district funding/planning the most? As a board member, where would you look to make budget adjustments?
The 5th Avenue project is certainly the largest future development looming for the city of Naperville. While plans are on pause for the moment, I think it’s no secret that there is so much potential with this development. It would benefit the Park District and the whole community for green space to be considered as part of the final project. By using sustainable materials and incorporating energy efficient aspects into the development, Naperville can make a big step towards a more sustainable future with the right additions.
7. What’s the best way to communicate landscape changes such as the Park Meadow Plan to neighboring residents?
The Park Meadow Plan is an innovative plan that results in multiple environmental benefits. Rather than residents being surprised when this transformation begins, informing and educating the residents who specifically live near the sites marked for the conversion of turf grass to prairie meadows should be a priority for the Park District. A community meeting, information on the Park District website, and even targeted direct mailings are all ways to better inform the public. This project promotes a healthy community by protecting the environment for the long term. Residents will benefit from having all the information, and will likely be thrilled to know that the Park District values sustainability measures.
8. What new use, if any, do you imagine for the facility known as the Riverwalk Café?
The Riverwalk Café, which went through major renovations less than five years ago, is a premier facility for the Park District. Even this past winter as COVID-19 restrictions made it difficult for children to visit Santa the Riverwalk Café was transformed into Santa’s Workshop, bringing much needed joy to local children. During the summers, residents and visitors are able to enjoy a bite to eat or even a cocktail as they enjoy other downtown Naperville facilities, such as Centennial Beach and the Paddleboat Quarry. The Café adds to the allure that all of downtown Naperville has to offer!
9. What’s your favorite Naperville Park District park or facility?
We have felt so fortunate to live within minutes of Knoch Knolls Park. Over the years, we have been delighted to utilize the Park in a variety of ways. My daughters enjoy attending Nature Camps there each summer, as well as dozens of visits to the Nature Playground ever since they were toddlers. I have personally used the running and biking trails as part of my past triathlon training. Hayrides at Knoch Knolls in October with friends is always a highlight for our family, and a kayak trip is next on our list!
10. When was the last time you read the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights?
It has been awhile since I read the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights in one seating. However, I will say I have found it helpful to refer to both documents in recent years. It is more important than ever to stay focused on the truth and facts as we navigate through these unprecedented times.
11. What recreational need is missing in Naperville that could be proposed/provided/funded by the Naperville Park District?
The Naperville Park District is known for the plethora of classes and events to choose from each time the new Program Guide is released. But I do believe that by diversifying the program offerings to be more inclusive, we could better serve the community as a whole. Offering dance classes that appeal to different types of dance styles and to all genders would be one example. Appealing to a variety of cultures and interests should be a district goal. The Park District functions best when all residents are considered when putting together the program offerings each quarter.
12. What’s the best way to address differences of opinion among board members or between the board and park district administration?
My activity in civic life to date, along with my time as a gun violence prevention volunteer leader, has provided me with opportunities to engage with community members. I have accepted many invitations to participate as a panelist regarding gun violence and gun safety conversations. As one can imagine I have been a part of plenty of discussions in which disagreements arise. When handled tastefully, calmly, and focused on facts these differences of opinion can be productive for both sides. During these moments I also find that bringing people back to common ground is a helpful tool in keeping the conversation respectful and worthwhile. While I believe it is imperative to have meaningful discussions on policy disagreements, keeping those discussions honest and respectful is a high priority for me.
13. Share a childhood memory that features a visit to a park! (Please include city and state)
I was fortunate to grow up in central Illinois surrounded by a large family. As a young child, my paternal Grandmother still lived in my Father’s childhood home. The home was situated in a residential historical district with brick lined streets, boulevards and a large park playground down the street. I have such fond childhood memories of spending hours at ‘Grandma’s Park’ with my siblings and cousins. A favorite activity was grabbing the roll of wax paper from Grandma’s kitchen and using it to make the spiral slide even faster. We thought we were pretty slick!
Anything else you’d like to add?