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Executive Director Mike Adams Announces Retirement; Board Appoints Current Director of Parks, Planning & Development Jenny Knitter as Incoming Executive Director

Mike Adams, Executive Director of the Woodridge Park District, announced his scheduled retirement effective June 30, 2024 to the Board of Commissioners at the August 2023 Regular Board Meeting. Mike has proudly served the Woodridge Park District and Woodridge community, which he lives in, for over 34 years. He started his employment in 1990 as the Park District’s first Landscape Architect, first Superintendent of Planning & Development, first Deputy Director and the District’s second Executive Director appointed in 2006 to succeed the District’s first Executive Director Keith Frankland, who also served for 34 years. Read Mike’s “Letter of Retirement” below to the Board of Commissioner’s highlighting his gratitude and 34 years of service to the Woodridge Park District.

In anticipation of Adams’ scheduled retirement, the Board of Park Commissioners conducted and finalized the search of prospective candidates to consider for the Executive Director position. The Board required an extensive application process and after completing its hiring review and interview process, the Board of Commissioners reached a unanimous consensus to verbally extend an offer to Director of Parks, Planning & Development Jenny Knitter, which was formalized per approval of a resolution at the October 17th Regular Board Meeting. Jenny will become the Woodridge Park District’s 3rd Executive Director effective July 1, 2024.

Jenny has been employed by the District since 2004, first hired as the District’s Landscape Designer. In 2006, Knitter was promoted to Superintendent of Planning and Development managing the District’s comprehensive capital improvement program. In 2021, following a strategic management process and decision to improve department/division efficiencies, the Planning, Development & Natural Resource’s department combined with the Park Operations department into the new Parks, Planning & Development (PPD) department. Jenny was promoted as the new Director of Parks, Planning & Development to oversee this new department.

Jenny previously expressed interest in becoming an Executive Director and committed to achieving several continuing education milestones to advance her public administration education, skills and experiences. In addition to receiving a Bachelor of Landscape Architecture degree from the University of Illinois, Jenny recently obtained a Certificate of Graduate Studies in Public Management from Northern Illinois University, completed year one of two at the National Parks and Recreation Association’s (NRPA) Director’s school, graduated from Indiana University’s Executive Development Program and graduated with honors from the Illinois Parks and Recreation Association’s Leadership Academy.

Jenny is a National Parks & Recreation Association Certified Parks and Recreation Professional (CPRP) and Professional Landscape Architect (PLA). She actively participates in the Women in Leisure Services organization, is a member of the Midwest Institute of Park Executives (MIPE) for which she served as the organization’s first female President elected to serve on the MIPE’s board, served as the Section Director of Illinois Park & Recreation Association’s (IPRA) Parks & Natural Resource Management Section, serves on the Park District Risk Management Association’s (PDRMA) Education and Training Committee and is an active member of the Woodridge Rotary Club.

President Cohen stated, “Jenny’s appointment was based in part on her dedication to the District, commitment to excellence & continuing education, professionalism, leadership traits, knowledge of agency history, and personal drive to continue the District’s ongoing commitment to achieve the District’s mission to enhance one’s qualify of life by providing superior parks, facilities, and recreational services in a safe, fiscally responsible and environmentally sustainable manner, in partnership with the community.” Cohen added, “The Board is extremely proud and appreciative of the outstanding job Mike Adams has done throughout his tenure at the Woodridge Park District and especially in his role as Executive Director. Part of his exceptional work ethic and professionalism is to have fully prepared an able successor in Jenny. Mike’s leadership skills set a standard of excellence throughout the park and recreation industry and we are fortunate he chose our district 34 years ago.”

Letter from Mike Adams to the Woodridge Park District Board of Commissioners

Dear Commissioners,

It is with bittersweet feelings to announce my retirement effective June 30, 2024. As of my scheduled retirement date, I will have proudly served the Woodridge Park District and the Woodridge Community I call home for over 34 years.

On May 1, 1990 I officially arrived for my first day of work as the District’s first Landscape Architect at the newly renovated Administrative Offices at 2909 Forest Glen Parkway, a converted home across the street from the old 75th Street swimming pool. I was extremely fortunate to have been hired by the previous Executive Director Keith Frankland, a leader in the Illinois parks and recreation field, who took me under his wing to personally mentor my development for advancement in the park and recreation profession according to the profession’s highest standards. Keith instilled in me perseverance in pursuing our dreams and vision irrespective of the challenges or obstacles thrown our way. I took that advice to heart and literally through blood, sweat and tears strived for excellence to improve the quality life through parks and recreation for the Woodridge community.

I have been extremely fortunate to have served under the most caring, professional, passionate and open-minded Commissioners in the parks and recreation field. The longevity and dedicated service of our Commissioners led by long-time past President and dear friend Fred Hohnke speaks volumes to the overall success of this organization. I’m extremely grateful to Commissioners Fred Hohnke, Jim Duffy, Jack Mahoney, Brian Coleman and Joe Kubal for entrusting me with the reigns of this District back in 2006 to serve as their Executive Director. I’m also fortunate to have served under the guidance of Commissioners Leon Kipp, Arlene Vandenberg, Mary Kranz and our current Commissioners Bill Cohen, Sam Venouziou and newbie Ken Perry who will carry on the District’s vision for the next Woodridge generations. Fred Hohnke with the support of all the Commissioners consistently pushed the envelope for the District to do more rather than less in order to enhance park and recreational opportunities for the Woodridge community. Fred emphatically believed that our small size district compared to our neighbors should be no excuse to not have the best parks, programs, events and recreational facilities for our community. That shared vision resulted in some amazing accomplishments.

For me, those accomplishments first began in 1993 with the planning, design and construction of Mending Wall Park, that my family and I have enjoyed living next to since 2002. The planning and design of that park established the model template and benchmark for neighborhood park planning, resident involvement and established design standards and expectations for future neighborhood parks, the backbone of the District. As a professional with a degree in Landscape Architecture, I couldn’t have been more fortunate to have connected with the Woodridge community during its highest growth period resulting in unlimited opportunities to partner with new and established neighborhoods and the community as a whole to provide new creative high-quality park improvements and facilities for all to enjoy for generations to come.

Since that beginning, I have played a contributing role in the planning and development of all the District’s major parks and facilities to date, many which have been recognized by the Illinois parks and recreation profession as award winning. Besides the numerous high-quality neighborhood parks developed, those major developments, which in many residents’ eyes provided Woodridge an identity they could be proud of, included:

  •  Janes Avenue Park Sports Complex Renovation & Skate Park Expansion
  • Cypress Cove Family Aquatic Park Development & Expansion
  • Orchard Hill Park Sports Complex Development
  •  Community Center & Administrative Office Expansion
  • Hobson Corner Park Splash Pad & Pickleball Court Development
  • Maintenance Facility
  • Athletic Recreation Center
  • 83rd Street Park
  • Forest Glen Park (Universal Barrier Free)
  • 21 miles of paved off-road multi-use pathway system
  • Jefferson Jr. High School Athletic Facility Complex

The abovementioned developments don’t account for the millions reinvested through the well-funded capital replacement and development programs to ensure District parks and facilities remain like new and/or continuously add value. Furthermore, the $12.5MM grants, alternate funds and donations received during my tenure to offset the costs for many of the capital projects is an achievement we should be very proud of.

Our Park District team should also be proud of all the intergovernmental agreements with our sister agencies to provide the best recreational opportunities for the community. Most notably, the recent IGA with the Village to fulfill a long-term vision to secure the Town Centre property for open space, park and recreation use in perpetuity. That agreement in addition to the Bikeway Development IGA, Village Greens 25-year Lease Agreement, ARC Development IGA, Jubilee IGA, Memorial Park IGA, Equipment Sharing IGA; and Woodridge School District #68’s Cooperative Use & Maintenance of Buildings & Sites IGA, and Jefferson Jr. High Athletic Facility IGA, and Land Donation/Swap IGAs’ many of which have been recognized by the Illinois Association of Park Districts through the “Best of the Best” awards program stands out as a leading example of how communities should partner together to improve the quality of life for their residents. Operationally, I am also proud of our team to maintain the Distinguished Accredited Agency Award status. This major recognition, being one of only 49 agencies out of 400+ Illinois park & recreation agencies, establishes the Woodridge Park District as one of the best leading agencies throughout all of Illinois.

All of the District’s achievements throughout the past 34 years couldn’t have happened without the dedication, professionalism, skills and talents of my co-workers. Their ongoing commitment to strive for excellence for the betterment of the community and workplace was a joy to experience. Equally so was their commitment to practice one of the District’s core values “Live for Fun” which made coming to work very fun. They are all outstanding public stewards of the District to provide the best of the best for the Community and I’m grateful to have worked with some of the best professionals in the State.

The Executive Director position is a demanding position for we truly are engaged 24/7 with our residents at the grass roots level. To succeed under those demands, one must have the full support of their family; and I can unequivocally say that I was blessed to have the full support from my wife Peg and kids Caitlin, Jenny and Matt to allow me to be engaged all hours of the day and night when work came calling. Also, I was allowed to “Take Time for Fun” when time permitted to take advantage of so many of the District’s programs and facilities with family and friends, so I could experience firsthand the outstanding programs the District had to offer and to maintain a fun and healthy lifestyle. I can’t thank them enough for their love and ongoing support.

The Woodridge Park District is blessed to have a great family-orientated community who values their recreation and I’m thankful to hopefully have played a small part in improving their lives through increased safe access and accessibility to open space, parks, natural areas, fitness opportunities, special events and recreation programs.

In conclusion, I firmly believe, together, we will have left this amazing organization in a better place than when I first arrived and hopefully will be positioned for long-term success.

I look forward to my last official work day of Friday, June 28, 2024 to pass on the torch to the next generation to take this District on to bigger and better things. In the meantime, I will dedicate my efforts towards continued progress to offer the best of the best and plan for a seamless transition for the District.

Thank you for the 34-year journey!

Michael T. Adams
Executive Director

Woodridge Park District

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