We’ve been critical over many years of the proclivity of our local taxing bodies to so often promote from within — and way too often to promote from within the same families.
Among the bodies too often inclined to turn to the same gene pool has been the park district. Whether it is staff members or elected board members, we see the same names too often and, in the case of the board, staying too long.
That said, the Park District of Forest Park blew up that stodgy model two years ago when Larry Piekarz, its longtime executive director, retired. Instead of turning to a person whose last name starts with “N,” the board went with the full outsider, free-thinking Jackie Iovinelli as its top staff person.
To say it has been a refreshing change is way understated. This week as Iovinelli filled the post of Superintendent of Parks by promoting Ryan Russ to the job, Russ offered some inside thoughts on the energy and innovation Iovinelli has brought to everyday work at the park.
Odd that in promoting Russ, Iovinelli is building that energy and innovation by staying inside the small organization for a key hire.
Ryan Russ is the ultimate park district staffer. The man loves his park, has since he played there as a Forest Park kiddo. Now as a proud dad, he loves seeing his kids in the park, in the programs, in the sheltering arms of the community there. Genuinely enthusiastic, Russ embodies the best of Forest Park’s small-town charm.
To her credit though, Iovinelli didn’t just hand over the keys to the shed to Russ a year ago when longtime superintendent Larry Buckley retired. While she was inclined to move Russ up, she first urged him forward, giving him the year to prove his leadership and to advance his training. Russ has come through both on the ground and in completing course work to become a certified pool operator and more recently became more expert on assessing playgrounds.
Russ is enthused to have earned the promotion. And he is looking forward to putting his mark on both every square foot of “The Park” on Harrison but also in gradually reworking the newly inherited pocket parks the village government has wisely, belatedly bequeathed to the parks. There is great potential in those small parks sprinkled within the village.
Congratulations to both Ryan Russ and to the park district on this promotion.