For the first time in almost two decades, the village of Brookfield will have a certified recreation director heading its Department of Parks and Recreation when Stevie Ferrari begins her new job on July 23.

Village Trustee Nicole Gilhooley, who serves as the village board’s liaison to the Parks and Recreation Commission, announced the hire at the village board’s July 9 meeting.

“She has a certain energy that will be really welcome here,” said Gilhooley of Ferrari’s presentation to board members during a final interview last month. “She came armed with great examples of programs she’s implemented, why she did it and what the results were.”

In a phone interview last week, Ferrari said she was looking forward to building a new department.

“There are so many possibilities,” Ferrari said. “The groundwork is there.”

According to Michelle Robbins, the village’s human resources director who conducted the candidate search along with management consultant Jay Dalicandro, the job attracted 49 applicants.

Robbins and Dalicandro interviewed 10 people and recommended three finalists to the village board, who heard presentations from and interviewed all three individually during an executive session on June 25.

“I think combining her past experience and seeing her excitement to lead the department came across right away,” said Village President Kit Ketchmark. “I think she’s going to be a good fit for us.”

Ferrari has a bachelor’s degree in recreation, sport and tourism management with a specialization in public administration from the University of St. Francis in Joliet. Since 2012, she has held worked with organizations ranging from small municipal recreation departments to park districts serving hundreds of thousands of people.

She spent a little more than year as a camp supervisor and instructor for the Riverside Department of Parks and Recreation before landing recreation supervisor positions in Lockport Township and Clarendon Hills.

“She was great,” said Riverside Recreation Director Ron Malchiodi. “She has a very energetic personality. Parents and kids loved her. I’m not surprised she ended up as a director somewhere, because she had all the potential.”

Ferrari will be the second recreation director who cut her teeth with the Riverside Department of Parks and Recreation. Teresa Mrozik, who is recreation director in North Riverside, also worked for Malchiodi.

From 2016 until Jan. 1, Ferrari was a recreation supervisor for the Fox Valley Park District. In February, she started a job as assistant director of the Leyden Township Parks and Recreation Department.

According to Robbins, Ferrari at first was reluctant to apply for the Brookfield job, since she had just started the job in Leyden Township, but Brookfield officials encouraged her to submit an application.

“She came highly recommended, so we reached out to her,” Robbins said.

Robbins said Ferrari has experience with special events, programming for senior citizens and will work to bring more programming in-house instead of relying on cooperative programs or outsourcing them.

“We want to bring programs into our buildings and into our parks, so people can enjoy the programs Brookfield has to offer,” Robbins said.

Ferrari’s starting salary will be $65,000, according to Robbins.

Ketchmark said he is excited to have a director-level employee leading the Department of Parks and Recreation after staffing it since 2003 with a full-time program coordinator and a part-time special events coordinator.

“We haven’t been able to give it the focus it should have,” Ketchmark said. “[Having no director] doesn’t allow you to offer more programs and market those programs. There are so many pieces to every event, plus you have programs, day camps, putting out a recreation directory. We haven’t had full-time help on that in a long time.”

Ferrari said the village board’s support for building the department meant a lot.

“They want it; the community wants it,” said Ferrari of a more robust recreation department. “It’s nice to be walking into the job knowing it’s wanted. It’s an exciting opportunity.”

Longtime recreation event coordinator retires

The village of Brookfield is officially down to zero employees in its Department of Parks and Recreation after longtime special event coordinator Arlene Rovner retired July 13 after three decades of service.

Rovner submitted her retirement letter on June 25, said Human Resources Director Michelle Robbins.

“Arlene was a tireless worker who put 150 percent into everything she did,’ Robbins said. “I don’t think she always gets the credit she deserves. She’s going to be missed for sure.”

Rovner began her association with the department in 1987 as a preschool aide, organizing the first Kinderfaire, which she ran on her own for three years before joining forces in the fourth year with Brookfield Women of Today.

In 1995, she became the department’s part-time office assistant and was promoted in 2012 to special events coordinator by then-Village Manager Riccardo Ginex.

If there was a village-sponsored event, Rovner’s fingerprints were all over it, from the annual Battle of the Bands to outdoor summer concerts, movies in the park, holiday celebrations, and, always, the July 4 parade and beloved post-parade party in Kiwanis Park.

“It’s been a great run, and I cherish all the memories and friendships I’ve made,” said Rovner. “I love this town and I love the people. I just need to step back and take a break.”

With the help of some fill-in support from other employees at village hall, Rovner has steered the department since the retirement in March of the department’s lone full-time employee, Mary Pezdek.

Rovner kept busy on her last day, training staff who will fill in at the recreation office in the lower level of the village hall under the arrival of new Recreation Director Stevie Ferrari on July 23.

­— Bob Uphues

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