Bob Thomson, St. Charles Park District Board election questionnaire

Election 2024
Bob Thomson

Full Name: Bob Thomson

What office are you seeking? St. Charles Park District Board Commissioner

What is your political party? This is non-partisan elected board

Age: 67

Profession, employer: Retired high school technology teacher

Education: BS Degree in Technology Education from the University of Wisconsin-Stout, Master’s Degree in Instructional Technology from Northern Illinois University.

Community involvement: St. Charles Park District Board Commissioner 1999-Present, Fox Valley Special Recreation Association Board 1999-Present, St. Charles Intergovernmental Committee 2015-Present, current member of the St. Charles Bike and Pedestrian Plan Committee, participated on the Norris Cultural Arts Center Board, Norris Recreation Center Board, and Campton Fields Inc Board.

Marital status/immediate family: Married with three children and two grandchildren.

Why are you running for office?

I am running for re-election because I wish to continue the great progress made within the Park District during my time serving as a commissioner. I want to ensure that we continue to move the Park District forward and remain cognizant of the use of tax dollars. Through the continued implementation of our comprehensive master and strategic plans, the board is being pro-active in land acquisition. We are strengthening our partnerships with the private and public sector. Further, we are pursuing grants to fund various capital projects whenever possible. We currently have a well-functioning board. More importantly, we have great employees, facilities, and programs. Our staff was remarkable in how they steered the park district through the pandemic, always reimagining ways to provide programs given the challenging circumstances. There is no specific area or issue that motivates me. We are a part district that offers something for everyone, and I want to be part of making sure that continues. I will continue to do my part to seek, hire and keep the most qualified professionals to maintain our parks, facilities, and programs in response to community needs.

What makes you qualified for the office you’re seeking?

My history of experience with participation in, and knowledge of the Park District and its partners having served on the St. Charles Park District Board and other boards listed previously.

What does your park district do well?

We currently have a well-functioning board. More importantly, we have great employees, facilities, and programs. We offer something for everyone and are totally inclusive of everyone wanting to participate in our offerings. Our staff was remarkable in how they steered the park district through the pandemic, reimagining creative and safe ways to provide programing and recreational opportunities. All involved continue to explore and expand ways to improve on what we offer and provide. We will never be complacent.

Are all constituents adequately served by the park district?

This is the goal. If we aren’t adequately serving everyone and we become aware of that through surveys, etc., then are goal would be to make every effort to correct it. Sometimes it may be an easy fix or correction but in some cases it would require an expense and exploration into coming up with a solution that is satisfactory to all involved.

What would you like to see improved or changed?

Through surveys and facility studies we know that there is a need for more indoor facilities and space for a variety of programed and non-programed activities.

Are voters that support your district taxed at an appropriate level?

We are very mindful of how we use the taxpayers’ dollars. We rely on tax dollars as well as program fees to cover the costs of what we offer to our residents in all these areas. Program fees and charges are paid for by the participants that are enrolled in our programs. Our organization is very conscious of the cost of these offerings. We value the input of all stakeholders when deciding upon program costs and possible alterations. We are challenged by the increased cost of paying staff given the increase in the minimum wage. We strive to ensure that we are paying competitive wages to retain current qualified employees and to attract new candidates as positions open. Lastly, we are challenged to maintain our existing facilities as well as upgrading them when needed. We pay for these things through tax dollars, participant fees, and grants wherever available and applicable. We look for alternate revenue sources and engage in partnerships which saves tax dollars, such as that with D303 with the use of Haines, Norris Recreation Center and before and after school programs.

Would you support any plans to ask for a referendum proposition that would raise taxes in the district? If so, what should the additional revenue be spent on?

As a last resort when our sources of paying for an identified need is not available. We identified the need for a recreation center in 2015 trying to meet the demand of needed indoor recreational space. We did have a referendum on the ballot that the voters did not support. Since that time, we have been able to provide additional indoor space by entering into an intergovernmental agreement with D303 for the use of the Norris Recreation Center, the Haines Gymnasium, and the turf field at Thompson Middle School. Additionally, we purchased Sportsplex, off Dean St. We are mindful of the tax dollars that we receive and plan accordingly on how those dollars will be spent.

Would you support lowering taxes in the district? If so, what programs or services in the district would you cut?

It would be very difficult to cut or remove a program once it is in place especially if it has community support and demand. Our staff monitors what is offered and if necessary, will either eliminate it or reimagine it or offer something new in it’s place. One of our biggest expenditures are salaries. This financial challenge is paying our quality staff with the minimum wage increases and offering competitive salaries to attract and retain quality staff. Additional financial challenges involve the continual increases in costs to maintain and upgrade our parks and facilities on an ongoing basis. Lowering taxes would be a challenge but holding the line is always the goal.

What lessons should park district officials have learned from the pandemic?

I believe that everyone involved learned to do things differently. Our staff, with board support, was very creative and did a remarkable job in keeping programs running and facilities open. Safety guidelines were implemented to ensure that our participants and staff were not put in harm’s way. The park district in reinventing moved many programs outdoors, created virtual programs, and revamped special events. Parks became community hubs where it provided space and an opportunity to make connections. We continue to stay abreast of any circumstances which might necessitate modification of health and safety protocols and communicating those modifications to staff and community members alike.

What is your position on open, transparent government?

I completely agree with being open and transparent. As an example, our website was revamped to make it more user friendly.

Do you support the Freedom of Information Act and citizens’ ability to freely access government records?

Yes, within the constraints of the act itself.