SANDWICH – Michael McCann often visited local parks as a young boy to enjoy playgrounds, sled down snowy hills, play volleyball and swim.
He now participates in martial arts with his three daughters – and has the title of “Park District Director” under his belt.
The Sandwich Park District has named McCann its new executive director.
McCann started Feb. 14, replacing previous director Sue Swithin after her retirement. Swithin had served as head of the park district since 2011.
McCann, who lives in Elgin with his wife and daughters, plans on relocating to Sandwich.
McCann has a bachelor’s degree in recreation and wellness from Eastern Illinois University and a master’s degree in counseling and social work from National Lewis University.
He has served as senior program director and has worked in programming for YMCAs, parks and senior living facilities in the Chicago suburbs.
“I’ve been in life enrichment and recreation my whole life,” McCann said. “I also travel around the country as a keynote speaker and discuss leadership. I am passionate about helping people become the strongest and best versions of themselves, and the park district provides that. ... On the surface, it’s a basketball game, a mom and tot painting class or Zumba, but those activities teach teamwork and self-reliance and help build physical, mental and spiritual well-being.
“For children, it’s not a playground with a jungle gym, swing and slide – it’s a castle, the Millennium Falcon or Hogwarts,” he said. “It’s important to allow children to believe in themselves and gain confidence and creativity because those are the building blocks for them in the future. The park district can be that vehicle for them.”
Todd Latham, president of the Sandwich Park District Board of Commissioners, said McCann’s work experience set him apart from other job applicants.
“He has worked extensively on programming in the past, and his experience will help expand our programs for all ages and the entire community,” Latham said. “He will bring new energy and ideas and create more opportunities for everyone, especially youth and senior citizens, to be more active and creative.”
The search for the new park director began in December and lasted about six weeks into February. Latham said there were about 14 applications for the position and that interviews were conducted in January. McCann’s starting salary is $70,000 a year.
As the park district’s new director, McCann said he hopes to collaborate more with other local agencies and businesses to host events and activities.
One example is working with the Sandwich Fire Department to expand the Sandwich Freedom Days event.
“We’re going to be bringing back Sandwich Freedom Days to celebrate Independence Day,” McCann said. “My hope is for different groups and agencies to come together and work together to make a wonderful event.”
The Sandwich Park District also has plans to expand the programs and activities offered, including additional programs for older adults, nonathletic programs for teenagers, more trips, and arts and crafts.
In the summer, a pickleball league, kayak and canoeing outings, concerts in the park, free movies, and a beer and barbecue event will be offered.
McCann said he looks forward to working with the community in his role as park director.
“I think I have one of the best jobs in the world, helping people learn new things, stay active, find courage and be engaged in life,” McCann said. “Being alive is not just living, there’s a difference. When you’re involved with our programs, we want you to come alive.”