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Long-time park board member steps down : News : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
Long-time park board member steps down
Krase worked to strengthen ties with other local taxing districts

by Lyle R. Rolfe


Four years ago Deb Krase of Oswego was honored for serving 20 years as a member of the Oswegoland Park District Board. This past week, one year before reaching the quarter-century mark, she announced her resignation from the board.

"It's been a good 24 years, working with a great board and a great staff. You all have made my job much easier," she said, noting how often she received compliments about the park district when she was out in the community.

By the time you read this, Krase and her husband, Dick, will be settling down in their new retirement home in The Villages, Florida, northwest of Orlando. She retired this year from the accounting business she started in 1987.

"Dick has been patiently waiting for me to retire so we could leave these cold winters," she said, adding, "When it snowed the other day, I thought we waited a little too long to make the move."

Krase, an Oswego resident since 1975, and soccer coach since 1986, said she never really thought about serving on the park board until she was asked to fill a vacancy created in 1989 by the departure of Caryl Hoffer.

Park board members receive no pay for their service.

Krase was subsequently re-elected to a six-year term three times afterward. She served most recently as board vice president but also is a past president.

Before she accepted the park board position, she served on the CPAC-Citizens Park and Advisory Committee, at the request of a friend in 1986.

"The friend had joined the committee and was asked if any of her friends wanted to join. That's when she tapped me," Krase said.

Her time on the park board has been rewarded with many compliments on the district's programs, parks and staff members.

"That is not by my doing but by that 'can do' attitude that is found throughout the park district.

"It has been my pleasure to serve with my fellow commissioners and an honor to serve the community. I am but one of five commissioners overseeing the district operations and making policy decisions. No single board member has the power or authority to act on his or her own," she said, adding that the board empowers and equips the professional staff to operate and serve.

When she was recognized for 20 years on the board, she recalled that her first big project was to talk to Bert Gray (then executive director), about a bike bridge across the Fox River at the end of Mill Street.

"The one thing I did contribute, back when I was on the advisory committee, was that the park district should offer their services to the school district and see what the schools could do for the parks.

"Within my first year on the board we adopted our first intergovernmental agreement with the school district. We agreed to mow the school grounds in exchange for gymnasium space after school hours for our park programs," she said.

Krase constantly promoted intergovernmental cooperation within the community, something she is quite proud of. Within two years after her appointment, the park district completed an intergovernmental agreement with the school district.

"The district received an award for intergovernmental cooperation when it deeded land near the Brokaw Early Learning Center in exchange for bricks and mortar to be added on to Southbury Elementary School. This agreement allowed the district to build South Point and saved the taxpayers $867,000," she said.

Since then the park district has signed similar agreements with the Oswego Public Library District, Village of Oswego, and Oswego Township, she said. This cooperation has since become the norm between many governmental units in Oswego, saving tax dollars, while other communities do not enjoy such cooperation, she noted.

"I advised the board to make up a list of things the district could do for the other taxing bodies. I said they should go to the other bodies and say, 'This is what we can do for you. What can we do together to mutually benefit the taxpayers'?

"This spirit has spread to all governmental units and today Oswego enjoys a rare atmosphere not found in many communities. Of course, my suggestion was only a spark. The administrations of each unit had to buy into it for it to really be as effective as it is," she added.

By the time Krase hit the 20-year mark on the board, she had become a grandmother, which she said allowed her to see the parks and programs in a new way--from the perspective of a preschooler.

Krase said the biggest change during her 24 years on the board has been the growth in the area.

She said the district responded to the growth with more parks, more programs and a much larger staff to accommodate the increased population.

"Our staff is very capable of handling growth and change," she said.

Krase noted that Ginny Bateman, recreation and marketing director, has been with the district longer than she was and said Grant Casleton, planning and development director, was the first full-time employee hired after her appointment.

"It is a sign of a healthy environment when employees stay committed for the long-term. Oswego is fortunate to have these exceptional people working for them. I could not be more proud of our professional, courteous staff," she said.

One huge benefit to the district over the years stemmed from an action taken by her husband, Dick, when he was Regional Superintendent of Schools for Grundy and Kendall counties.

"He took a neighboring county's Land/Cash Ordinance and succeeded in getting it adopted in Kendall County.

"Although it was originally written to benefit school districts, we were successful in having the Village of Oswego apply it to the park district as well,"_she said.

That ordinance allowed the district to acquire most of its neighborhood parks

Within months after her appointment, the board purchased the 83 acres that is now Prairie Point Park between Grove and Plainfield roads in Oswego. It was purchased with a long-range vision which is still important today, she said.

As the housing and building boom started, the district focused on creating neighborhood parks and connecting various developments with trails using the Land/Cash Ordinance and grant funding, minimizing the cost to the taxpayers, she said.

"Land and cash provided by the developers has helped in building parks for everyone and the park district was enjoying the benefits when houses were being built at a record pace," she said.

But a few years ago, the economy changed and the housing boom came to a near halt, presenting the district with financial problems not seen before, she noted.

The park board was able to see how the economy would affect the district's land-cash revenue source drop and met the problem head-on she said. Krase commended the district's Management Team for recommending a budget plan that included salary freezes for all staff members.

Krase has made hundreds of decisions over 24 years but said, "I cannot think of any decision that I regret."

Looking back over the past 24 years, she noted these accomplishments by the board. The district purchased 83 acres for Prairie Point Park, developed a canoe launch at Saw Wee Kee Park, developed the Fox River Trail, acquired Violet Patch Park along the east bank of the Fox River, preserved the old U.S. Route 34 bridge across the river making it the first bridge park in Illinois, purchased and razed four small houses north of the bridge on the east river bank to become Hudson Crossing Park, acquired land west side of river and built a foot bridge between Marina Woods Park and Violet Patch Park, purchased Fox Valley's half of Fox Bend Golf Course, remodeled the Civic Center Pool, and purchased Boulder Point at Route 25 and Boulder Hill Pass.

The district also is completing a total renovation of Winrock Swimming Pool. Just over a year ago, parents recommended adding more swimming lanes. Krase suggested the architects modify their design for the pool from six lanes to eight. It was done and bids for the eight lane pool came in under budget for the new pool scheduled to open next Memorial Day.

While serving on the board, she still found time to give back to the community. During her 38 years in Oswego, she served as a Boy Scout Leader for Troop 63, was a member of the Optimist Club and served as president for the 1995-96 year. She was also a member of Together We Grow, a group creating a healthy environment for youth, and was founder of Club Friday for Junior High Students.

Krase was an elder at Oswego Presbyterian Church, where she served as youth director, a member of the choir and bell choir. She was also a Stephen Minister and served as treasurer for 10 years.

"I have most enjoyed meeting wonderful people and making great friends through volunteer work. There is an instant connection when one gives back to their community," she said.

At her last board meeting, Rich Zielke, executive director, presented Krase with a photo album of autographed pictures of Park District staff members, and a replica of an old crock from Roger Matile, Little White School Museum director.

"This was a wonderful idea," Krase said as she thumbed through the album. "And I love old crocks," she added.

She also received a plaque from Zielke which notes that a tree will be planted next spring at the Fox Bend Golf Course in honor of her work and dedication to the district.

"It's your favorite-a sugar maple," he said. When asked where she wanted the tree planted, she suggested putting it alongside the ninth hole.

Krase is such the avid golfer and fan of Fox Bend, that Brad Doyle, course general manager, said they will have a lot of tee times to fill next season in her absence.

After honoring Krase, Zielke recognized Bob Mattingly, board president with a plaque for his 20 years on the board.

He also had one for Danielle Ebersole, who celebrated 10 years on the board. She was absent from the meeting, but will receive her plaque at the next meeting.

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