The Pekin Park District is facing the retirement of three key employees with over 100 years of experience in the coming months.
While that will mean the loss of a lot of institutional knowledge, it also will allow for changes as new people bring in fresh ideas.
Park Superintendent of Recreation Terri Gambetti, Superintendent of Parks Tom Elliott and Special Facilities Manager Dan Englebright will all retire in the coming months.
Gambetti served 40 years with the park district, Elliott 43 years and Englebright 19 years.
Peoria Park District Assistant Manager of the Owens Center and Lakeview Family Aquatics Center Manager Shawn Powers will be the new Pekin Park District Superintendent of Recreation. He will be paid $62,500 plus benefits. Gambetti is paid close to $80,000.
Powers was one of 25 applicants, said Park District Director Cameron Bettin.
“I know I’m coming in to fill some pretty big shoes,” said Powers. “My strength and background comes from ice rink management and aquatics, as well as athletics, so I think that’s where I’m going to differ from her — she was very much arts and culture.
“I’m kind of going to come at things from a little different angle, but will show a lot of appreciation for the foundation that she laid. I don’t have any plans to come in and do sweeping changes and cuts and slashes. If things are popular and great, I’m all for them being popular and great and continuing on. My big thing is that the programmers there are experts in their fields and what they do I’m going to continue to let them run with the ball that they have.”
Interviews are in progress to fill Elliott’s position.
Ten candidates submitted resumes for the position. Elliott is in charge of maintenance of all of the park grounds and buildings, takes care of the park fleet and other tangible services. He also helps with events in the parks. The park district has 16 parks on 2,200 acres of park land. It also cares for the Riverfront Park in Pekin. It is owned by the city of Pekin.
“One of the biggest things we’re looking for in (these positions), is somebody we feel would fit into the community,” said Bettin. “Not just the park district and with the staff we have here, but these two positions especially work with the community, deal with the community and talk to the community in so many different facets. That’s very important in these positions — to find somebody that will fit right in and relate to the community as well. We’re here for the community. (Elliott and Gambetti) — where do you even start with what they’ve done. I feel (Powers) will fit right in.”
Englebright’s departure may lead to the bulk of any change at the park district.
Bettin said Englebright is in charge of DragonLand Aquatic Park, the popcorn stand in Mineral Springs Park, Memorial Arena Ice Rink, Magic Dragon Golf and Games and other programs facilities.
At this point, Bettin has decided to move the aquatics programs and ice rink programs to Powers. The park district has the option to add a third recreation program supervisor rather than a special facilities manager. That will allow the park district to add programs.
In addition to filling the vacant seats, the park district is contracting with the University of Illinois for a survey of the community to determine what interests and needs are in the community.
University of Illinois students are in the process of an “Attitudes and Interest” survey. The surveyors have spoken with park staff, board members, local sports organizations, non-profit organizations, schools, the Pekin Area Chamber of Commerce and others to get feedback on current programs and determine what they see as needs.
A community meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. on Jan. 18 at the Miller Center, where park district residents can offer their input.
Bettin said the board hopes to have the finished survey completed by the end of April.
Follow Sharon Woods Harris at Twitter.com/sharrispekin