By Bob Uphues
For the first time in at least two decades, the village of Brookfield has two full-time employees working for the Department of Parks and Recreation. On Feb. 18, Ben White stepped into the newly created role of recreation supervisor, which will focus on increasing program offerings across all ages.
White, 26, comes to the village after a nine-year stint worked for the Leyden Township Recreation Department. Most recently, he served as recreation supervisor, overseeing part-time staff and the department's day-off camps and developing an after-school program for teens.
A graduate of Concordia University with a degree in secondary education, White first began working for Leyden Township Parks and Rec as a summer seasonal and took on a full-time role after graduating from college.
"I hope that in the future we'll be able to bring a lot of programs in-house, making it more cost effective for residents and having more community members involved, not just as participants but as instructors," said White.
White said that he wants to expand programming for middle school and high school age kids, and work with outside organizations, such as the Brookfield Public Library to bolster offerings for those age groups.
Brookfield Recreation Director Stevie Ferrari was familiar with White prior to him submitting an application for the newly created position. For six months in 2018, prior to being hired in Brookfield, Ferrari was White's boss at the Leyden Township recreation Department.
White was one of 40 people who applied for the job, said Ferrari. Those asked back for second interviews were required to make a presentation outlining what they would bring to the job in Brookfield.
"Ben really did a more in-depth look at Brookfield – what we were not offering and how he'd bridge that gap for us," Ferrari said. "He also has a very specific knowledge on outdoor recreation and outreach to outside organizations … and has a working knowledge of recreation programming and relationships with vendors."
White's salary is $50,000. His presence will allow Ferrari, who was hired in July 2018, to focus on strategy and larger projects, such as working with an architect on concepts for a new recreation center for which the village will seek state grant funding.
Ferrari has also been cementing relationships with outside organizations, such as Brookfield-LaGrange School District 95, with whom the village has just inked a facilities-sharing agreement. Ferrari has also pitched the school district a proposal for the recreation department to operate an after-school program for elementary school students.
"I think [this hire] is really going to show to the community how much this is going to impact them," Ferrari said. "This will provide even more to the community and better quality programming."