Shifting out of parks: Shaffer recalls growth over 28 years on Frankfort board
BY SUSAN LAFFERTY firstname.lastname@example.org April 24, 2013 6:38PM
Paul Shaffer, who is retiring from the Frankfort park board after 28 years, is having Tanglewood Park renamed in his honor, stands in the park in Frankfort, IL on Saturday April 20, 2013. | Matt Marton~Sun-Times Media
Updated: May 29, 2013 6:33AM
Paul Shaffer’s four kids grew up playing in Tanglewood Park, a small neighborhood park near their Frankfort home at the time, and they jokingly referred to it as “Shaffer Park.”
It is now a place where he might bring any of his 11 grandchildren, if not to play then at least to see the park that officially will be known as Shaffer Park.
His kids were certainly excited and Shaffer himself was surprised, he said, at this recognition recently bestowed on him, as he retires after serving 28 years on the Frankfort Park District Board of Commissioners.
“It’s great. I didn’t expect it,” Shaffer said.
There’s a new sign at the park, at Colorado Avenue and Tanglewood Lane, to replace the “Tanglewood Park” sign to make it official.
He recalled that he initially planned to run for the library board, but two park commissioners he knew convinced him to put his energies into the park district. Ironically, his two friends lost their bid for re-election while he won.
Tanglewood was one of five parks the park district leased when Shaffer first got on the board in 1985 — others were Lincoln Meadows, Indian Boundary, Bingham, and Main Park. The park district occupied a small office on White Street with only a couple of employees and a part-time director.
During Shaffer’s tenure, as Frankfort’s population quadrupled, the park district grew to own 17 parks, the Founders Community Center and the Puente Educational Services Building.
“We’ve come a long way,” Shaffer said.
He stayed on board because “I liked what I was doing,” he said. “I tried to keep some continuity on the board, and I’m an engineer. I like to build things.”
He once ran for village trustee but lost.
He’s retiring from his park post now “because it’s time,” said the 70-year-old, who still works full time. He figured he “probably” stayed longer than any other commissioner.
In those seven terms, seven bids for re-election, some were uncontested and some were “knock-down, drag-out” fights, he said.
There were challenges with the village at times and the challenges to manage growth, and finances continues into the future.
“My goal was to provide facilities and programs, especially for kids and special recreation,” Shaffer said.
There were many highlights during his years of service, he noted.
In his 28 years, the park board acquired the Puente building, a former American Legion, to house preschool programs, which had been held in a local Lutheran church.
They passed a referendum to acquire and remodel a former school to create the Founders Center in the downtown area, and to acquire and develop the 60-acre Commissioners Park at 80th Avenue and Laraway Road.
Representing Frankfort, he served on the Lincolnway Special Recreation Association Board, which is now moving forward with a building of its own.
The Frankfort Park District also has been a leader in offering new facilities such as dog parks, skate parks and lighted sledding hills.
It was able to grow with the help of a village ordinance requiring land donations for parks in new subdivisions.
Shaffer also witnessed the renovation of Main Park and the all-volunteer effort that created Fort Frankfort at Commissioners Park, an effort that to this day continues to maintain that facility and the adjacent dog park, he said.
If he would do anything differently, he would not have lowered the tax rate when Prestwick subdivision was annexed. That move came before the tax cap law in 1991, which has since limited how much money all taxing bodies can get from property taxes.
Even though growth has slowed in recent years, Shaffer knows Frankfort will keep growing in the future, and with it, the park system.
“He saw the park district through its growth spurt,” park district executive director Tom Carstens said.
During his years on the board, Shaffer served in every capacity: president, vice president, secretary and treasurer, he said.
Because of his “enthusiasm, leadership and knowledge of the park district,” Shaffer was also named the official Frankfort Park District historian, Carstens said.
“Twenty-eight years ... you don’t hear of that dedication any more,” Carstens said. “He’s a good person. He was a board member for all the right reasons. I’m going to miss him.”