Chuck Papanos—Someone You Should Know
Finding the right career can be a lifelong journey. But a fortunate few, like Chuck Papanos, operations manager for the North Parks and Riverwalk, discover their career path at an early age and pursue it with single-minded passion.
After taking a job at a local nursery and landscape company when he was a teenager, Papanos’ vocation became clear. Following in the similar footsteps of his father—a turf specialist with the Extension Service in Connecticut—he earned a bachelor’s degree in ornamental horticulture and in 2001 he joined the Naperville Park District staff.
On March 19 of this year, Papanos received the American Spirit Award from the Exchange Club of Naperville—a special honor to celebrate those “members of the community whose actions demonstrate a commitment to a can do spirit in their work and interactions with others.”
Earlier this year you received the American Spirit Award from the Exchange Club. What did this award mean to you?
It meant a great deal. I have a great staff and they really understand what’s important and what is expected of us. So when we get asked to prepare a ball field, set up flags for the 9-11 ceremony, or most recently, construct the Vietnam Wall that complemented the Healing Field, we just work through the process and get it done.
Where did you work before joining the Naperville Park District?
Before I started at the NPD, I owned a small Christmas tree farm and raised some livestock. As I started growing the Christmas trees, I also taught horticulture classes for five year for the Illinois Department of Corrections.
How has working in Naperville helped you grow or stretch you professionally?
The job is so diverse that some days the maintaining of parks is only a small fraction of what we do everyday. We provide support for picnics, concerts, parades, walk-a-thons, even triathlons, and a whole assortment of recreational programs throughout the year. So there are always new challenges and new people to work with on any given project.
The job is so diverse that some days the maintaining of parks is only a small fraction of what we do everyday.
What are some new projects you are working on or will soon be working on that the community will get to enjoy in the near future?
We have a great relationship with the City for the maintenance of the Riverwalk. We are currently watching the construction of the Water Street project that is adding a full width Riverwalk along the edge of the river. And the renovation of the old Riverwalk Eatery into the new Riverwalk Cafe will be coming online in the next few weeks.
What do you think distinguishes Naperville’s parks from so many other parks in the western suburbs?
We have a high level of demand for quality from our users and we strive to produce a great product for the public to enjoy throughout the season
Is there a particular project that you are most proud of, or that you might like to consider as your legacy to Naperville’s residents both present and future?
I have greatly enjoyed the three times that the Healing Field has been on Rotary Hill. The enjoyment and goodness that people get from seeing all those flags is amazing. On a more simple note, just getting the pavers walks cleared of snow in the morning so that the early morning runners and walkers have a safe place to go is a good feeling. Additionally, I’m always happy the Tuesday after Last Fling, when the clean up starts and we start getting the Riverwalk back to its original condition.