News from a Community Partner
A 14-year old’s summer job working on greenhouses sparked a passion in Jesse Felix that later would turn into a long and decorated career in Parks and Recreation. Felix began his career at Cantigny alongside his father, where he worked for 15 years as Assistant Superintendent of Grounds and rose to Garden Curator. After studying Horticulture at College Of Dupage and Management at Aurora University, Felix made a brief stop at the Funny Firm and became the Superintendent of Parks for the West Chicago Park District in 1990.
Jesse worked for the Park District and soon felt at home in the West Chicago Community. His first memory of the Park District was a challenge with a smaller staff and outdated equipment. Felix began a plan to buy used equipment gradually to meet the needs of a growing District while being fiscally responsible. Today, the Park District oversees 11 parks and over 400 acres of open space and some of the equipment that was purchased back then remains in use.
In 2007, the Park District hired its current Executive Director, Gary Major; under his direction the Park District has grown from open green space to a land and facility rich District. This allowed for several new projects for Felix, amongst some of his proudest achievements, the creation of a trail system that connected residents with nature and added to the beautiful landscape of the parks. “No one cares more for the community and the preservation of parks than Jesse, he has been the heart and soul of the District” said Major.
However, there is a particular project that will be Felix’s legacy in the Community. On July 1, 2012 a major storm devastated the community and heavily affected West Chicago’s signature Reed-Keppler Park; Jesse worked tirelessly to bring the park back and beyond its glory to where it is now regarded as a level one arboretum. Felix had the idea of wood utilization from the trees that were lost during the storm and incorporating them as furniture accents at the ARC Center; which gave students of Architecture and Furniture class of the Illinois Institute of Technology the opportunity to create over fifty pieces of furniture and artwork and inspired the children’s book “The Playground Tree” by Jeanette Joy. His love of nature and passion for horticulture is evident as you stroll through the beautiful grounds and landscapes of Reed-Keppler Park, which is undoubtedly the heart of the Community. Felix payed homage to his late father who instilled in him a love for the environment with every new tree that he planted, over 1,000 throughout his 28 years with the District.
Jesse is a state-recognized and well decorated professional who has received the Illinois Park and Recreation Chairman’s Award, Professional of the Year Award, and has served as Director for the Parks and Natural Resource Section of IPRA. He also served on the Midwest Institute of Park Executives Board as a board member and President and received the President’s Award and Professional of the Year twice. He has supported and worked with the Morton Arboretum on the Chicago Regional Tree Initiative, taught Horticulture at the College of DuPage and is an active Treekeeper with Openlands.
West Chicago will enjoy the fruits of his labor for many years to come. Jesse has always been known to be a team player and played an integral role in major community events as well as served in various other organizations.
To his fellow employees, Jesse is known to always have a smile on his face, pull pranks and have a perpetual habit of saying “Yes” to any request made of him. Both his wife Robinn and his daughter Erinn recognize that his thumbs are truly green and he wears his heart on his sleeve. Jesse Felix will retire on March 29, 2018 after 28 years of commendable and dedicated service to the Community of West Chicago.
Photo and content courtesy of the West Chicago Park District.