Chicago Park District Board appoints Rosa Escareño as permanent CEO

Escareño has acted as interim CEO since the departure of Mike Kelly over his handling of allegations of sexual misconduct among some of the agency’s lifeguards.

Rosa Escareño, Interim CEO of the Chicago Park District, speaks at a town hall meeting at Horner Park’s field house in March.
Rosa Escareño, Interim CEO of the Chicago Park District, speaks at a town hall meeting at Horner Park’s field house in March. Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere / Sun-Times
Rosa Escareño, Interim CEO of the Chicago Park District, speaks at a town hall meeting at Horner Park’s field house in March.
Rosa Escareño, Interim CEO of the Chicago Park District, speaks at a town hall meeting at Horner Park’s field house in March. Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere / Sun-Times

Chicago Park District Board appoints Rosa Escareño as permanent CEO

Escareño has acted as interim CEO since the departure of Mike Kelly over his handling of allegations of sexual misconduct among some of the agency’s lifeguards.

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The Chicago Park District Board of Commissioners made Rosa Escareño’s role as general superintendent and CEO permanent on Wednesday.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot applauded the removal of “interim” from Escareño’s title, saying it was “proof of the hard work, dedication and commitment Supt. Escareño and her team have demonstrated these past few months to the Chicago Park District and throughout her more than three decades of experience serving our communities.”

The statement continued: “I am proud of Supt. Escareño’s work and devotion to excellence which all our residents need and deserve. … Supt. Escareño knows that our parks are a vital lifeline for our residentsas well asthe jewel of most communities, andthat she must focus on making key investments in our South and West side parks in particular.”

Escareño had only just retired at the end of July from a 30-year career in city government, most recently as commissioner of Chicago’s Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection.

Escareño’s predecessor, Mike Kelly, left the park district in disgrace last October over his handling of allegations of sexual misconduct among some of the agency’s lifeguards. The scandal resulted in three top executives being fired and criminal charges against others.

A report from the park district’s inspector general earlier this year revealed potentially more instances of sexual misconduct and bullying but said the agency took appropriate disciplinary actions.

At a town hall meeting in March, Escareño pledged to create and sustain a safe working environment at the park district and put in place a “culture of respect.”

Escareño said Wednesday that she was “humbled and excited” for the opportunity.

“Over the past seven months, I have had the opportunity to engage and empower our workforce and be reminded of how incredibly important parks are to the fabric and success of our city, particularly for our children and their families who rely on our services.”

Chicago Park District Board President Myetie Hamilton issued a statement saying she “enthusiastically” supported Escareño’s nomination.

“Under her leadership, the Chicago Park District will continue the momentum in turning a new chapter with a commitment to transparency, safety, inclusion and accountability to our workforce, families and communities,” Hamilton said in the statement.