November 19, 2018
A warm congratulations and well-earned celebration is on the horizon for one of the Wilmette Park District’s long-serving staff members. The Superintendent of Recreation, Kathy Bingham, recently celebrated 39 years of service last month on October 8, and is now in the final stretch toward her retirement on November 30.
Bingham spent the entirety of her professional career with the Wilmette Park District, beginning in 1979 when she first signed on as the Cultural Arts Supervisor. “The department was small, but well supported in terms of enrollment,” explains Bingham. Since the beginning she has identified what the Park District does well, and focused on nurturing and growing those pieces. “I saw that we had waiting lists for programs, and started my work there,” she says, “expanding offerings to accommodate the demand.”
Over the next 6 years, the department boomed from a modest collection of youth programs hosted at Highcrest, to triple the amount of programming requiring a move to the Park District’s very own space at the Community Recreation Center. With the transition into a larger space, Kathy was promoted to Recreation Programming Manager. Some of her accomplishments in this role include the creation of our biggest seasonal event, Halloween Happening, the expansion of the July 3rd and 4th events, increasing gymnastics enrollment by 400%, partnering with New Trier Extension art classes to offer adult art programming to Wilmette, and taking over the management of the North Shore Theatre to bring an adult theatre program to the Park District. Current Recreation Program Manager, Carol Heafey comments, “Bingham has given the Wilmette community countless opportunities for families to try new things, spend time together and enhance the town they live in.”
The next progression in her history with the Wilmette Park District came when she was asked to fill the role of Recreation General Manager. “My focus shifted to the fitness center, managing office staff, maintenance and later, the addition of adult programs at the Mallinckrodt Center.” Bingham continued guiding the established recreation departments and serving as an advisor for the new Recreation Program Manager.
“It’s rare today to see a professional progress in an organization the way Kathy has,” says Human Resources and Risk Manager, Liz Cox. Eight years following her promotion to General Recreation Manager, Bingham took another step in her professional career and became the Superintendent of Recreation. With a new range of responsibilities, Bingham adapted her methods and embraced the change by “getting to know the board members, preparing information and learning to balance the needs of staff with the broader focus of the elected officials.”
Looking back on the last 39 years, Bingham appreciates every memory she has saved from her time with the Park District. “I have been so fortunate to have served four different roles here, giving me new opportunities, challenging me at new levels, and keeping the work fresh and interesting – and the wonderful people I have worked with over the years has made it difficult to leave,” she says. “I feel like the Park District and I have grown together, as the programming areas grew, I learned more.”
“As a whole Kathy has impacted the Park District for decades, not many are lucky enough to say that,” comments Heafey. Bingham has supported her colleagues and inspired a number of associates with her personal growth, her knowledge and mentorship in the parks and recreation field, and her focus on bolstering professional development in the people working for her. Cox remembers a time that she and Bingham had an important and game-changing conversation about the need to re-evaluate the fitness center and membership sales approach. “She always has the courage to have the conversations that truly matter, and that has meant a lot to me over the last six years.”
Moving forward into the final days of her career with the Wilmette Park District, Bingham is excited to increase her volunteer work and philanthropy. “As a cancer survivor, I am looking forward to continuing my work with the American Cancer Society, advocating for more funding for research and access to health care and services for cancer patients.” She also plans to spend more time doing the things she loves – spoiling her grandchildren and traveling the world.
The Wilmette Park District is honored to have had such a long history with Bingham. “From me personally, and on behalf of the staff, elected board, and community at large, I want to thank Kathy for her service to the community,” says Executive Director, Steve Wilson. “Her efforts throughout her career have made Wilmette a special place to live and raise a family, and she will truly be missed.”
The impact for her years of dedication have gone far beyond her professional accomplishments, “I have made friends for life, with staff as well as residents in this community,” she says, “we really made magic happen in Wilmette.” Congratulations and best of luck to Kathy Bingham!