Rachel Ossyra—Someone You Should Know

November 2015 View more

NMAG1115_SYSK_nm Rachel Ossyra 2_800pxRachel Ossyra may be a grandmother, but don’t think she spends her days knitting or babysitting two- year-old Emerson John. She’s a highly driven woman who laughs shyly at the suggestion that she “always gets what she wants,” but admits goal setting usually gets the desired results. The former Amoco/BP engineer is in the middle of her four-year term as Superintendent of Naperville Township and this year she was voted the Rotary Club of Naperville’s Rotarian of the Year for her medical mission work in Nigeria.

As someone who sets goals, did you always have your heart set on becoming Naperville Township Superintendent?

If you’d have told me I would be doing this 10 years ago, I would never have believed it, but I love it! I kind of accidentally got involved with politics when I moved to Naperville after three years working in Hong Kong. I volunteered helping good people get elected and eventually became chairman of the Republican Party here. This is an elected position and I thought the township was a great place to represent the party.

What was your intent when you took on the role and how are you fulfilling it?

The township is responsible for social services; we serve 110,000 residents. We have eight staff members, eight elected officials and of those, four trustees and myself make up the Board of Directors. I felt one of the things that had been lacking was transparency and I wanted to improved that. We are lean and mean. Everyone who works here faces the public. Now we are working to improve our website and electronic news as well as making sure all of our board meetings are advertised. The public is always welcome to attend.

As well as helping people locally in this role, you also enjoy helping people on a global level. What appeals to you particularly about chairing the Rotary Club of Naperville’s International Committee?

Since I joined Rotary 4 1/2 years ago, my passion has always been international service. The ability we have as volunteers, as people from different professions and experiences to have an impact on other people’s lives, is maximized through international service. The most exciting thing about taking a leadership role has been being able to partner with other local Rotary clubs so we can work together on this. Not every club has the means to be able to travel internationally but thanks to the Rotary Foundation we are able to do so.

It’s amazing that a small group of people from Naperville can really make a difference in Nigeria. Can you explain a little about the work of your committee?

We are helping three hospitals in and around Nssuka, Nigeria. Working with Hospital Sisters Mission Outreach, we have been able to obtain grants to send them refurbished or surplus medical supplies. We are also working with them on long-term planning so they can work to improve their facilities. I have been there four times. There is so much work to do. One of the hospitals is in a rural area in a dilapidated building where the ceiling is caving in and I saw rat poop on the operating table. In June, we were so happy to be able to send them four 40 foot containers filled with medical equipment and supplies.

How did you feel when you were named Rotarian of the Year?

It’s amazing to be recognized for something you love to do. It was also very motivating because you always think you can do more. I’m so grateful to Rotary that we can do work like this.

Photo by Robyn Sheldon