Municipal elections are happening April 2nd, and there are a variety of local positions up for grabs. We came up with some questions for candidates in several of these races, and will be publishing their answers over the course of the next couple of weeks as they respond. Smile Politely doesn’t generally endorse local candidates, and these interviews are not endorsements. Hopefully, they will provide you readers with some insight into the importance of local races, and help you develop a sense of which candidates share your values. We’ve reached out to those running for Champaign and Urbana school boards and park districts, Champaign City Council, Mayor of Champaign, and Parkland Board of Trustees.

Champaign residents have the opportunity to elect one person to the Champaign Park District Board of Commissioners, a group of five elected officials that handle the business affairs of the park district. Commissioners serve for six year terms. 

TIm McMahon was elected to the board in 2013, and is running for another term. 

Smile Politely: What successes can you point to during your tenure on the board, and what do you hope to accomplish if elected again?

Tim McMahon: Four of the success I am most proud include (1) The approximate $850,000 renovation of Douglas Park where a splash pad, paths with fitness stations, lighting and a new picnic shelter were added; (2) The re-developing of Spalding  Park in concert with the Unit 4 School District. The re-developed Spalding will have a new baseball field, locker rooms, concession stand, walking paths, playground and lighting; (3) The new Martins Center which is planned for North Market Street. The construction drawings will be finalized this year; (4) Overall the most important achievement is the board’s ability to avoid placing an additional tax burden on the citizens of Champaign Park District while at the same time maintaining quality services city-wide.

If elected I look forward to: (1) overseeing the construction of the Martins center and its opening; (2) expand programming for youth as well as for those who, like I will this May, have reached the age of 55; (3) not burdening the citizens with unnecessary tax hikes; (4) maintaining quality parks and programming throughout the Champaign Park District.

SP: When considering the budget for the park district, what are your top three spending priorities?

McMahon: Within a balanced budget the top priorities must remain: (1) top flight personnel, who are the heart and soul of the park district; (2) operations,so that our parks and facilities are well maintained;  and (3) comprehensive planning for the future, so we are financially sound and providing programs and services  that improve the quality of living for our community.

SP: Is there a park district facility you feel is under-used? How could you bring more programming and people to that site?

McMahon: The under-used park district facilities listed below have been selected for redevelopment will thrive and become highly utilized once construction is complete. Those parks are: (1) Spalding Park with the upgrades to which I have previously outlined will attract people to watch high school baseball games and use the other amenities in the park; (2) Heritage Park, with the 2019 construction of addition walking paths and improvements to the water front along with a future planned connection to Kaufman Lake will add a scenic area to picnic, birdwatch, bike, skateboard or run; and (3) Human Kinetics Park, where a multi-use facility, will bring together many users for the benefit of the entire community.

SP: What do you think the CPD is doing well in terms of making its programming and facilities accessible and inclusive for all residents: racially, socioeconomically, physically. What can be improved upon?

McMahon: I believe the Champaign Park District has become quite adept at leveraging resources, public and private, to address the needs of our parks and taxpayers city-wide through an ongoing, comprehensive planning process. With the support of the Champaign Parks Foundation, and individuals like Jimmy Liautaud, we have been able to provide thousands of dollars of youth scholarships. We provide programs for the physically and mentally challenged through CUSR (Champaign-Urbana Special Recreation) which permits us to address the needs of two long under-served populations. For the elderly we provide year round services at both the Hays and Douglas centers. The Leonard Center is available for use by all with its indoor playground, walking track, fitness room and courts.

I believe strongly that improvements can always be made. The sharing of ideas and relevant and more information, leads to better decisions.

SP: What is your favorite Champaign park and why?

McMahon: That seems like a loaded question, similar to “which one is your favorite child”.   However if I had to choose one park it would be Hessel Park, with pre-school memories of playing on the old fire truck, grade school memories of field trips, high school memories of football practice and adult memories of family reunions at the Pavilion. It has been a vibrant part of this community for decades, and will always be my “favorite child”. One of my primary joys of serving on the board comes from watching other families, every single day, making their life-long memories in parks around the city.

Top photo from Champaign Park District website