Updated: Urbana parks chief to retire; successor promoted from within

Updated: Urbana parks chief to retire; successor promoted from within

URBANA — The Urbana park board didn't consider undertaking a nationwide search for its new executive director.

It opted to go with Tim Bartlett, the park district's superintendent of planning and operations, as the successor to Vicki Mayes, who announced Tuesday that she would retire next April after more than 10 years in Urbana.

"We're committed to going with Tim as the executive director rather than doing a nationwide search," said Michael Walker, president of the park board.

Walker noted that the park board conducted a national search 10 years ago when Mayes was hired.

"It's not a comment on the results from that. We were very happy with that, but we see Tim as a really strong candidate. He's somebody who has worked hard, he's shown great touch with the community, and frankly, we'd rather not spend the money and the time hunting around when we on the board believe we already have the right guy right here.

"It's a good thing when you show that you'll promote from within when it's appropriate."

Walker said board members were unanimous in agreeing to make Bartlett the fourth executive director in the history of the park district.

"The cost (of a search) wasn't a factor," he said. "He's a top-quality guy and he's right here."

Bartlett, 53, a native of Seneca and a graduate of the University of Illinois, said Tuesday that he had been impressed with Urbana's parks since he arrived in Champaign-Urbana in 1986.

"The first thing I did during the first week when I was driving around, was to stop by Carle Park," he said. "I stopped the car, got out and I was immediately impressed with the level of the commitment that this park district has. To see a park like that with the large trees and the formal axis, obviously as a landscape architecture student it really stood out to me. It was clear to me that this was a community that loved its parks."

Bartlett began work with the park district in 1992 as a planning coordinator.  He also teaches at times in the UI's department of landscape architecture.

Mayes said that when she was hired by the park board in 2004 she pledged "to stay between eight and 10 years."

One of her goals at the time was to renovate Crystal Lake Pool, she said. That plan took a detour when the pool had to be permanently closed over safety concerns. After a successful tax increase vote in 2011, a new $9 million pool was built on the site of the old facility. It opened on July 4.

"I wanted to stay long enough to build the pool and operate it for a year," she said. "That was the goal. And all of the other things that have happened during that time have been wonderful special bonuses."

Mayes, 66, said she will retire in late April and move back to Indiana.

"We have to move back closer to our family," she said. "There are a lot of needs there that we have to deal with."

Mayes praised Bartlett "as a leader in the community. He's been committed to the park district for a long time and he's passionate about parks and recreation."

Walker said the park board has not yet negotiated a compensation package for Bartlett as executive director.

Also Tuesday, board members learned that the new aquatic center had an attendance of 38,439 during its abbreviated, 66-day season from July 4 to Sept. 8.

The park district had projected an attendance of 61,923 for a 94-day season from June 1 to Sept. 2. Projections included an average daily attendance of 658; it turned out to be 582.

"I'm pleased with the fact that we were close with the weather we had and the fact that we opened as late as we did," said Corky Emberson, the park district's superintendent of recreation.

The pool was hurt by low pass sales: $34,600 versus projections of $80,000.

"Anyone in the pool business will tell you that if you don't sell passes by July 4 you're not going to sell," Emberson said.

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