Marion Park Board Commissioner Chris Sheffler seeks third term
After serving as commissioner on the Marion Park Board for two partial terms, Chris Sheffler is hoping to secure a full four-year term on the board this spring.
“I was an administration public policy major in college and I’m currently an employee of the city of Marion in the water billing department,” Sheffler told Southeast Illinois News. “So I have a strong financial services type of background.”
Before getting involved with government service, Sheffler was a store manager with a number of different retail corporations. “Those management experiences have helped me (aid in) some of the managerial duties for the park district,” Sheffler said.
Sheffler, who moved to Marion with his family when he was 9, has spent his entire adult life in Marion – long enough to have an in-depth knowledge of the issues affecting the city.
“We just refinanced our bond,” Sheffler said. “We have about $450,000 available for capital improvements. So we have some projects that we’ve started and we’d like to see finished.”
Since Marion is a growing city, Sheffler said, one of the most important things is to ensure the city continues to cater to the needs of residents.
“I tell people (that) we’re building a future for our community today," Sheffler said. "And as we grow we need to have more recreational opportunities and also green spaces available. So that’s one of our focuses – to provide those opportunities for our residents.”
One of the barriers to providing those opportunities is the financial conditions facing the city.
“Of course, the state of Illinois hasn’t had a budget, we’re looking now at a property tax freeze and those are all things that will affect our inbound revenue for the district,” Sheffler said.
The Marion Park Board has five members and two seats are up for re-election this spring – Sheffler’s and that of Commissioner and Board President Ashley Gott.
“We have four or five full-time park services staff members, so we’re a small municipal unit and we provide about 190 to 200 acres of green space, whether those are athletic fields or parks and recreation facilities and venues,” Sheffler said.
Sheffler does not have a challenger. A potential challenger failed to meet the filing requirements and was removed from the ballot, he said.
One of the things city residents should know about the park board is that it takes fiscal responsibility very seriously, Sheffler said.
“We believe strongly as a board, and this board has taken a strong position in order to maintain a strong cash reserve,” he said. “It’s important.”
Marion was one of the areas severely hit by the Southern Midwest Derecho in May 2009.
“(It) devastated many of our large trees in our green spaces and we spent about $115,000 to $130,000 removing trees from that storm,” Sheffler said. “And if we didn’t have a cash reserve, it would have really devastated the budget at that time.”
In order to prepare for such occurrences, the Marion Park Board tries to maintain a cash reserve of 18 percent of its total its revenue.
“We don’t take decisions on the community finances lightly and we try to ensure that we get the most bang for our buck, whether it be in our recreation opportunities (like) baseball fields, or whether it's just ... green spaces,” Sheffler said.
Because the city has venues for several sporting activities, they serve as an economic development tool for the community.
Each time a travel tournament comes in for baseball or soccer, it brings in a lot of revenue for our community, Sheffler said.
“We don’t reap the rewards of that but definitely the city does in sales tax revenue,” he said. “But what it does provide is an economic engine for development for the community. And we need to have these venues to continue to bring those opportunities into our community.”
In addition to serving as Marion Park Board commissioner, Sheffler is the vice chairman of the Williamson Republican Party.