Longtime Champaign Park District board member calling it quits
Newt Dodds, a member of the Champaign Park District board since 1975, will not run for another term in the April 9 park board election.
And there are only two candidates for two open spots on both the Champaign and Urbana park boards.
Alvin Griggs is unopposed for a four-year term on the Champaign board, and Tim McMahon is unopposed for a six-year term.
In Urbana, incumbent board members Michael Walker and Bob Stewart are running for new six-year terms. Walker has been on the Urbana park board since 1983; Stewart first joined in 2007.
Dodds' retirement puts an end to almost 80 years of nearly unbroken service by the Dodds family to Champaign parks. D.C. "Pick" Dodds was a Champaign parks commissioner from 1930 to 1971, and was the first president of the park district when it was organized in 1957.
Newt Dodds was appointed to the park board in 1975, replacing Richard Davis, who had moved to California. Dodds won election to the board in 1977 and was chosen the board president in 1981.
"Bill Helms suggested that I get on there and I said I'd be happy to, and that's how it went down," Dodds said Friday. "I had a lot of fun for 30, 35 years with a lot of great people who really cared about the entire park district. That's an important part of the job. You have to look out for the whole community."
Dodds said he decided not to run again because "my time was up, and I thought we were spending a little too much money. I tend to be a little more conservative than the balance of the board. Let's put it that way."
He said he didn't have conflicts with other board members, "just differences of opinion. But you're supposed to have those sometimes."
Bobbie Herakovich, the Champaign Park District's director, said that Dodds has been a loyal board member, even financially supporting the $7 million Virginia Theatre renovation project that he had been skeptical of. The remodeled theater is scheduled to reopen in April.
"I've been realistic about it. We were going to end up with it. It's no use sticking your head in the sand, so I wasn't going to let it go down and get worse than it was," he said. "Structurally the building is fine, but it needed a lot of help cosmetically. But you've got to try to squeeze the pennies a little bit."
"It's going to turn out to be very nice, but it's going to turn out to cost us a lot of money. We'll get through it all. We've been attentive to our budgets over the years, but at this time in life and in the way the country is, we need to have all the cash we can be holding."
One of the highlights of his term, Dodds said, was watching the joint development of Dodds Park, named for his father, and Parkland College, in west Champaign.
"It's a great park, a big park, with a great junior college. I think it's one of the nicest collaborations we've had among two governmental agencies in this area. It's a nice facility that serves a lot of people in many ways," he said.
"I've run my term and I think this is a good time for me to stop," said Dodds, 76.
He said he knows Tim McMahon, who apparently will replace him on the park board.
"We asked around. People don't step up like they used to," Dodds said. "We just asked people if they were interested in running and his name came back to us. I asked him a long time ago, and a year and a half or so ago, and he said he was interested. So that's how it went down."