Waukegan Park District Board President and Executive Director Honored with Statewide Awards

Jan 29
Monday, January 29th 2024

Waukegan, Illinois (January 29, 2024) – Commissioner Jeremiah Johnson, President of the Waukegan Park District Board of Commissioners, and Jay Lerner, Executive Director of the Waukegan Park District, were recognized with statewide awards at the 2024 IAPD/IPRA Soaring to New Heights Conference, the annual Illinois state conference for parks and recreation, forest preserves, and conservation agencies.

Commissioner Jeremiah Johnson was recognized with the Rising Star Award by the Illinois Association of Park Districts. The award recognizes up-and-coming board members in their first six years of service who have demonstrated exemplary performance in their duties and responsibilities as a board member. Commissioner Johnson is committed to ensuring that the youth of Waukegan have access to recreation opportunities, especially baseball and golf. As a local business owner, Commissioner Johnson actively supports programs and events and volunteers his time to make an impact.

Executive Director Jay Lerner was recognized with the Professional of the Year Award by the Illinois Park and Recreation Association. The award is presented to a current park and recreation professional in Illinois who has made a significant impact or achievement in the field of parks and recreation and/or the community in which they serve. Since joining the Waukegan Park District in 1998, Jay has led several major capital projects, including the Field House Sports, Fitness & Aquatics Center, Waukegan’s Greg Petry SportsPark, and the Waukegan History Museum at the Carnegie, opening later this year. Jay’s vision is the catalyst for creation of innovative programs and events at the Waukegan Park District.

Board President Jeremiah Johnson stated, “I am proud to receive the Rising Star Award from the Illinois Association of Park Districts. The award is not solely a personal achievement, but a reflection of the dedicated staff at the Waukegan Park District who make the dreams of the Board of Commissioners a reality for the community through state-of-the-art parks and facilities and innovative programs and events. Serving as a commissioner is a labor of love for me. I never expected to receive an award for my efforts.  I take great pride in being able to provide a positive impact in Waukegan.”

Executive Director Jay Lerner stated, “I am truly humbled and honored to receive the Professional of the Year Award from the Illinois Park and Recreation Association. It is a privilege to lead our passionate and committed staff who strive every day to make the community a better place through parks and recreation. I express my deepest gratitude to the Board of Commissioners, whose unwavering support and leadership has put the Waukegan Park District on a path to serve the community. I would also like to thank the Waukegan community for the support they give the Waukegan Park District. It takes an entire team to be successful and we have that here in Waukegan.”

About the Waukegan Park District

Established on December 26, 1916, the Waukegan Park District (WPD) has 53 properties and more than 742 acres of land, including the 18-hole Bonnie Brook and 9-hole Greenshire Golf Courses. Properties are managed to the highest environmental and conservation standards. Facilities operated by the WPD include the Field House Sports, Fitness and Aquatics Center, Waukegan’s Greg Petry SportsPark, Waukegan Skate Park, BMX Track, SplashZone, Percussion Playground, recreational centers, disc golf course, dog exercise area and agility course, outdoor sports fields, picnic areas, playgrounds, splash pads, and sports courts including basketball, tennis and pickleball. A full range of programs and services are offered year-round for all ages, from infants to seniors, as well as special need populations. Healthy lifestyles, wellness initiatives, and a connection with the outdoors and nature are integrated throughout programs, services, and special events. Arts and cultural activities are provided by the Jack Benny Center for the Arts, Waukegan Symphony Orchestra and Concert Chorus, and the Waukegan History Museum. We offer something for everyone!

A member of the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA), Illinois Association of Park Districts (IAPD), Illinois Park and Recreation Association (IPRA), and the Park District Risk Management Agency (PDRMA), the WPD employs 73 full-time and 219 part-time, seasonal, and temporary employees and is recognized by the IPRA as an Exceptional Workplace.

Nationally accredited by the NRPA Commission for Accreditation of Park and Recreation Agencies (CAPRA) and State accredited through the IAPD Distinguished Agency Accreditation, the WPD has received the Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA) Triple Crown Award for receiving the GFOA’s Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting, Popular Annual Financial Reporting Award, and the Distinguished Budget Presentation Award. The WPD was awarded the NRPA National Gold Medal Award for Excellence in Park and Recreation Management in 2013, and was named a Gold Medal Finalist in 2012, 2013, 2019, 2021, 2022, and 2023.

Media Contact
Josue Pasillas, MPA
Communications Supervisor
Waukegan Park District
(847) 360-4789