John C. Potts has been a leader in the parks and recreation field for more than 30 years. He retired in 2003 after 12 years as Executive Director of the Champaign County Forest Preserve District in East Central Illinois. Prior to that he spent 16 years at the Peoria Park District as Superintendent of Parks and Planning and as Chief of Park Police, and for five years before that he was Director of Activity Therapy for the Psychiatric Division of the Illinois Department of Corrections.
In addition to his employment, he has been chosen to serve on numerous prestigious Boards and Committees. He was elected to the American Academy for Park and Recreation Administration in 1990, where he continued to be active as its Executive Secretary/Treasurer through 2009. He sat on the Board of Directors for the American Academy Foundation and the Champaign County Forest Preserve District Foundation, and he also completed a term on the Board of Directors of the National Society for Park Resources.
He has been a member of the Board of Regents of the National Institute of Golf Management (NIGM) for more than 20 years and has been Chair of the school twice. He is currently a Trustee. The NIGM, sponsored by Oglebay and the National Golf Foundation, is the premiere management training program and graduate seminar for golf course managers in North America.
Potts hosted the 1994 National Symposium on the Environment. He also was a Task Force Member and Contributor to the Park, Recreation, Open Space and Greenway Guideline published by the NRPA and the Academy.
At the state level, he was actively involved for years in the Illinois Association of Park Districts (IAPD) and the Illinois Park and Recreation Association (IPRA). He served on the Board of Directors of IPRA's Administrative and Finance Section 1994-1997 and served for many years on IAPD/IPRA's Joint Legislative Committee, where he recently completed a term as Chair.
Potts was educated at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale. He earned a Bachelor of Science in Business in 1969 and a Master of Science in Outdoor Recreation Resources Management in 1971. He has written numerous articles and taught at the university and community college levels as well.
Although his resume is full of achievements and honors, his real success in Champaign County was in helping the Forest Preserve District to become a respected part of the community. He placed great emphasis on having positive relations with all groups and individuals, and he worked to expand educational programming to reach a wider audience, particularly those children in the area who don't live near a forest preserve.
During his tenure in Champaign County, the Forest Preserve District made great strides. Guided by his firm belief in giving the public quality at reasonable expense to taxpayers, the District completed a long list of deferred maintenance projects that were done without raising taxes. In addition, the District won grants that funded an extremely popular bicycle/pedestrian path, a long-needed outdoor recreation facility in southeast Champaign County and a canoe access area. the Forest Preserve District was awarded a $2 million grant to purchase land that included what became the largest public lake in Champaign County, and more than three miles of forest along the Sangamon River.
John's low-key leadership style had incredible results, both within his staff and out in the community. His contributions to the future of Champaign County and to the future of parks and recreation will truly benefit generations to come.