Candidate Name: Mary Gibson
Office Seeking: Park District Board of Commissioners
Campaign Website: www.MaryforNaperville.com
Closest Park: Ashbury Greenway and Rose Hill Farms Park
Occupation and/or Professional Training: I paused my career as a director at a data analytics firm to stay home with my children while they are young. I have a bachelor’s degree in Political Science and History from the University of Dayton and a master’s degree in Social Science from the University of Chicago.
How long in years have you been a Naperville resident? I’ve lived in Naperville 6 ½ years, but I grew up just next door in Lisle.
Community Service on Boards and Commissions with dates served:
If elected, the Park District Board of Commissioners will be my first opportunity to serve on a Board or Commission; although I have extensive experience with service and community involvement in other varying positions.
The following answers have only been edited for formatting purposes.
1. Why are you running to serve the Naperville Park District Board of Commissioners?
The Park District has been such an important resource for my family, I want to ensure it continues to be a strong community asset for all of Naperville. Between my three young children, I have sent my kids to four years (and counting!) of Park District preschool, have gone to hundreds of park district soccer and T-ball games, and have participated in more Park District mommy-and-me ballet, gym cats, and music classes than I can count. If elected, I will bring the perspective and insights of a parent actively participating in the wide range programs and activities our Park District offers. As a Commissioner, I will prioritize quality and affordable programing, commit to making Naperville Park District a leader in environmental stewardship and sustainability, and will be fiscally responsible – ensuring that Park District funds and resources are spent directly fulfilling its mission of helping the people of Naperville lead healthy lives.
2. What is the park district’s most pressing need?
I think navigating the public health and budgetary consequences of Covid-19 will be the most important need facing the Naperville Park District for some time to come. If elected, I will rely on the advice and judgement of experts and community feedback to address decisions that come before the Board.
3. What’s the best way to engage the community while planning Capital Projects?
Community engagement is vital for planning Capital Projects. Every available option should be pursued, including public meetings, surveys, and calls for public comment. When seeking community engagement on an issue is it important to make it easy for the public to provide feedback so multiple avenues should be available for the public to make their opinion known.
4. Name three park district policies that need review or immediate attention.
- Board meetings need to be live streamed to the public and video recordings of the meetings need to be promptly available on the website. Committee meetings need to be more transparent and accessible.
- The current waitlist policy for events and classes should be changed so that registrants can enter into a master waitlist for events rather than registering for the waitlists for each timeslot or team.
- We need to review the impact of not printing and distributing program guides.
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?
I have been attending Park Board Meetings since December, I listen to the Park District’s podcast, stay informed of the Park District’s latest news and press releases.
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?
CityGate West is one the most current developments being considered that would impact the Park District. Naperville’s Land Dedication Ordinance requires developers to dedicate 8.6 acres of park land, or the cash equivalent, per 1,000 people for any planned development, so is important that the Park District be included in discussions for new development projects in Naperville.
7. What’s the best way to communicate landscape changes such as the Park Meadow Plan to neighboring residents?
It is important for the Park District to utilize multiple formats for resident communication, including but not limited to digital and social media outreach, mail, signage, and open meetings with residents. I live along a property that was included in the Park Meadow Plan and I received a letter well before the plan was implemented explaining the project and how to contact the Park District if I had any questions or concerns. Open communication with residents is a vital aspect of the Park District’s mission.
8. What new use, if any, do you imagine for the facility known as the Riverwalk Café?
I think this past year’s Santa Workshop was a great use of the Riverwalk Cafe. I think the Park District should explore more creative ways to use this primely located facility. Perhaps small group programs, classes or events could be held at the Riverwalk Cafe during non-business hours.
9. What’s your favorite Naperville Park District park or facility?
My family and I love the new Wolf’s Crossing Community Park and can’t wait to frequent it more often as the weather warms up. I am also partial to our neighborhood park – the Rose Hill Farms Park where my kids have spent countless hours playing on the equipment and I have spent many afternoons talking with friends while our kids played.
10. When was the last time you read the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights?
I pulled out my pocket Constitution in early February to brush up on Article Three in preparation for a virtual discussion on the topic. I look forward to buying a new, updated pocket Constitution once the Equal Rights Amendment is ratified.
11. What recreational need is missing in Naperville that could be proposed/provided/funded by the Naperville Park District?
I would like to see more culturally diverse offerings, more neurodiverse offerings, and more offerings for older kids and teenagers. I would also like classes and programs to be more competitively priced. Every year the Park District holds a Capital Projects Open House to get community input for new projects. As a Commissioner, I would use input from community outreach efforts, such as the Capital Projects Open House, to identify areas of growth to ensure we are meeting the needs of the community.
12. What’s the best way to address differences of opinion among board members or between the board and park district administration?
Respect and a commitment to civil discourse are vital to organizations such as Boards of Commissioners, especially when there are differences of opinion. For the past two years I have facilitated a book discussion group at a local bookshop that meets with the goal of fostering civil discourse across the political divide, so this is a subject near to my heart. If elected, I am sure there will be times when I disagree with fellow Commissioners, however I am committed to respectful discourse and behavior.
13. Share a childhood memory that features a visit to a park! (Please include city and state)
My first non-babysitting job was at Rice Pool and Waterpark in Wheaton, Illinois. Working as a lifeguard, and then assistant aquatics manager, for the Wheaton Park District was the best way to spend the summer as a teenager. I would not be the person I am today if not for the sense of responsibility and leadership skills I learned working as an Ellis Lifeguard at Rice Pool and Waterpark.
Anything else you’d like to add?
As a mother of three young kids, the Park District has been such an important resource for my family, I want to ensure it continues to be a strong community asset for all of Naperville. As a Commissioner, I will prioritize quality and affordable programing, commit to making Naperville Park District a leader in environmental stewardship and sustainability, and will be fiscally responsible – ensuring that Park District funds and resources are spent directly fulfilling its mission of helping the people of Naperville lead healthy lives. Thank you for your consideration and I hope to earn your vote on April 6th.