The Batavia Park District recently hired from within when it named Allison Niemela executive director.
Niemela, who was director of marketing and public relations before stepping in as interim executive director in January, has been with the district since 2000.
She became interim director when Mike Clark left for a position with the Palatine Park District. The board received 29 applications and selected Niemela.
"The board has evaluated the district over the last seven months," said Pat Callahan, the board president, in a prepared statement. "And we believe in Allison."
The board pointed to her role in developing the park district's strategic master plan and spearheading community engagement efforts to determine the future of Hall Quarry Beach. With the plan in place, Niemela said, it's an exciting time to lead the district.
"It's a new era for the park district," Niemela said.
As the district moves forward with its master plan, the importance of communicating with residents becomes even more important, she said.
"The need to continue to tell our story" will be one of her challenges, Niemela said, as will finding ways to increase indoor opportunities for residents. Batavia defeated a referendum in 2010 to build a recreation center.
Another focus will on programs for older residents.
"We want to break that stereotype that a park district is just for young families," she said.
Her love for parks and recreation began at an early age when she joined the park district's theater program in Davenport, Iowa. The daughter of a schoolteacher and a judge, Niemela remained passionate about theater into high school. While she doesn't have time for community theater now, she enjoys playing golf and softball in her free time, she said.
Her theatrics bent also had an outlet when Niemela was an "IncrediBull," one of the employees at Chicago Bulls games who do promotions and contests on the court. She had to audition annually for the job, and "it filled that void of giving back to an audience."