New park district exec hopes to lead Tinley into the 21st Century
Shawn Roby has one goal in mind for the Tinley Park-Park District.
“I’m going to guide the [park district] — with the help of staff — to push our organization into the 21st century,” said Roby, who was recently named the park district’s new executive director. “They’re already highly functional. Everyone’s eager and willing.”
Roby officially took on the role early June, bringing with him his experiences in the restaurant industry, as well as a decade-long career with the Village of Antioch’s Parks and Recreation Department.
Before Roby came on board, John Curran held the position, dedicating nearly 20 years of service to the park district. By the end of June, Curran stepped away to start his retirement.
Roby shared the first couple of months on the job could not have gone any smoother.
“I tell everybody I gained the keys to a sports car,” he said. “You can add new paint, wheels and surround sound speakers.
“You can’t ask for a better position.”
And his role came as advertised.
“Like anything, there’s things you can do [to make improvements],” he said. “I’m still learning the ropes. There’s three cycles with brochures. We wrapped up the summer [edition].
“It takes one year to understand everything. There are so many working parts — the facilities, programs.”
The reason why Roby left Antioch was because he was in search of a new experience, one where he could grow and learn from.
Roby said there are differences in the way parks and recreation departments operate compared to park districts. Nonetheless, he is ready to take the helm.
Typically, park districts operate as an independent taxing authority, whereas a parks and recreation department works in conjunction with a municipal governing body. The biggest difference, Roby said, rests in the manner in which funding is put to use.
“[Parks and recreation] funding doesn’t necessarily stay in the department,” he said. “You could have $1 million one year and restrictions the next year regarding the fire and police departments needing something, so the parks and recreation department loses that money.”
Roby said one reason he is the perfect fit for this job is that he has the ability to understand the park district’s financial standing through a public-private sector and a unique business perspective.
That, he noted, is what really “sets me apart” from other candidates.
Roby already has a couple initiatives he wants to pursue during his tenure.
“I’m a big believer in collaborating,” he said. “No organization is perfect.
“I expect to [bring change], as far as efficiency by upgrading the financial software and recreational programming software.”
Outside of that, Roby has made it a priority to advance the park district’s plans to improve Veterans Park, an 8-acre lot on Ozark Avenue.
The project has been delayed for approximately one-and-a-half years to date.
“I’m hoping to get it moving any day now,” Roby said. “We’re hoping to get our Metropolitan Water Reclamation District permit.
“Then construction can proceed. We have our contractor getting everything lined up.”
Roby also shared that he inherited a team of dedicated staff members, and he is excited to get the ball rolling and become a part of the Tinley Park community.
A new resident to the area, Roby noted how impressed he is by the people that surround him and his family.
“My wife and I have two kids, and they’re in Tinley schools,” he said. “We hope to remain in the area for a long time.”