The village of North Riverside will soon be looking for a new recreation director with Teresa Mrozik announcing she’s leaving the post Aug. 25.
Mrozik, who has served as the recreation director for the past eight-and-a-half years, submitted her resignation to Village Administrator Sue Scarpiniti on July 19 in a letter that hinted at trouble behind-the-scenes.
“After the many situations/issues that have transpired during my time here and the increase over the past year or so, I have decided it is best for me to move on,” said Mrozik in her resignation letter, which the Landmark obtained through a public records request.
“I am grateful for the majority of my time and experiences here; however, I want to preserve my love and passion for my field,” Mrozik wrote.
Asked what “situations/issues” Mrozik was referencing in her resignation letter, Scarpiniti referred the Landmark to Mayor Joseph Mengoni for further comment.
Reached by phone Aug. 12, Mengoni told the Landmark he had not talked to Mrozik and did not know what was behind her decision to leave. That status had not changed by the night of Aug. 15, said Mengoni, when the village board met. Mrozik was not in attendance.
The Landmark reached out multiple times by text and email to Mrozik, submitting a list of questions about her decision, but Mrozik declined to talk about the matter.
It does not appear Mrozik was actively looking for a position outside of North Riverside and does not appear to have a job lined up at this time. When the Landmark asked Scarpiniti whether Mrozik had lined up a new position, she responded, “[Mrozik] has not indicated to me she does.”
Scarpiniti said she was planning to post the job opening this week in the hope of filling the position by the end of September or in early October. In addition to the recreation director, the department employs four full-time and one part-time staffers.
“I’d like to have someone in place very quickly,” said Scarpiniti, who indicated there may be one or more internal candidates for the job. “I’m trying to already map out a transition plan.”
Mrozik helped write a detailed job description, said Scarpiniti, and agreed to stay on a full month after announcing her resignation despite initially wanting to give two weeks’ notice.
“Teresa is going to be missed,” Scarpiniti said. “She has been a very good director for the village and has been a valuable asset to our community. She’s grown our recreation department significantly during her tenure and has made a significant contribution to the North Riverside community.”
Mrozik came to North Riverside in March 2014 after a stint of a little more than three years in Riverside, where she worked to grow recreation programming. It was that experience that made her attractive to North Riverside, and she delivered.
Under Mrozik’s direction, North Riverside Parks & Recreation became a community-building organization, offering family focused events, including an annual “block party” on Desplaines Avenue, a new holiday season kickoff/tree-lighting celebration and the popular annual Autumn Fest/Chili Cook Off.
The department diversified its recreation programming and most recently Mrozik sought to bolster youth programming beyond the department’s preschool/daycamp offerings.
She recently hired a youth coordinator, said Scarpiniti, to “tap into what she saw as an underutilized youth market. She felt there was a lot more programming that we could expand into.”
Third departure this year
Mrozik’s departure is the latest in a series of village hall staffers who have left since April. Pam Foy, who served as Scarpiniti’s executive assistant and was handed some supervisory duties during the pandemic, left in April for a similar position in Burr Ridge.
In June, another administrative employee, Koula Tricoci, also left North Riverside for a similar job in Burr Ridge.
Scarpiniti indicated that Tricoci left for higher pay while Foy may have been motivated to leave because her job in Burr Ridge also has some supervisory duties that she lost in North Riverside when the village hired a new finance director early in 2022.
Attempts by the Landmark to reach Foy and Tricoci for comment were unsuccessful.
Scarpiniti said there’s no link between those departures and Mrozik’s resignation, but in the past couple of years all has not been rosy inside village hall. During a spring 2021 mayoral/trustee election campaign where it was suggested positions and pay might be cut, clerical employees announced they were unionizing.
However, after a frustrating year and a half of trying to negotiate a union contract, clerical employees reportedly have disbanded the union and Teamsters Local 705, which had been representing the employees, “have voluntarily disavowed interest in the group,” said Scarpiniti.
“They never wanted to unionize from the get-go, but they felt pressured because of the political pressure,” said Scarpiniti. “But they did demonstrate that the office personnel were underpaid, and the unionization brought that to the forefront.”
Until recently, it had proved difficult to fill the two administrative vacancies, said Scarpiniti, due to pay rates the village was offering. That has left village hall short-staffed this summer, with just two full-time clerical employees remaining.
At the end of June, the village announced it was shifting to “summer hours” at village hall – with no Wednesday evening or Saturday morning front desk service — and had opted to again use an automated phone attendant to handle incoming calls to village hall.
Changes to pay rates have allowed Scarpiniti to find new two new clerical staff, both of whom are scheduled to start work Sept. 1. She has also hired the village’s first-ever staff accountant, who was scheduled to start work this week.
The accountant position had been approved by the village board for the 2021-22 fiscal year, but that job, too, had proven hard to fill due to the pay being offered. Scarpiniti said she also would soon be advertising a part-time front desk position.