Champaign parks director calls it quits after busy 12 years

CHAMPAIGN — Bobbie Herakovich gave a five-year commitment when she was hired as the executive director of the Champaign Park District. She will retire after 12.

"Not at all" did she expect to have stayed for that long, but it was too enjoyable to leave, she said. And as she plans to end her run in December, the park district's board of commissioners kicked off its search for a new director on Wednesday.

In 12 years, Herakovich has overseen the construction of Sholem Aquatic Center, the Virginia Theatre renovation, development of five new parks, construction of 15 miles of trails, and restoration of more than 35 acres of prairie.

The construction of a new $5.3 million Leonhard Recreation Center is underway with a $2.5 million state grant.

But it's the park district staff she commended on Wednesday, and she said she is most proud of them.

"We've done a lot," she said.

Herakovich has been "awesome," said board president Joseph Petry.

"I think she's done an incredible job in taking it to the next level," he said.

He added that Herakovich excelled in maintaining what already existed.

"She's been really helpful in helping us up our standards," he said.

Herakovich has spent nearly 40 years in local government at the Urbana Park District, in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., and as city manager in Farmer City before her last 12 as director at the Champaign Park District.

She said the park district has been successful in getting $7.3 million in grants during the past 12 years and even more in private donations through the Champaign Parks Foundation, which was established in 2005.

Her retirement will precede that of her counterpart at the Urbana Park District, Director Vicki Mayes, who announced her intention to retire in April. The Urbana Park District has already selected Mayes' successor: Tim Bartlett, its current superintendent of planning and operations,

Champaign, on the other hand, has opted to initiate a search for its next director. On Wednesday, the park board approved a contract with selection firm Hazard, Young and Attea.

Advertisements for the job should go up soon, and the interview process will roll out over the next several months.

The park district is "in really good shape," Herakovich said on Wednesday, and suggested her successor look to continue the work that is currently being done.

"We'll always have work on the Virginia" Theatre, Herakovich said. "We have several parks in the hopper, but we need more."

She also suggested the next director look to acquire more land for the district to ensure that open space is always available for future park development.

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