Zahn takes pride in Deerfield park improvements
Jay Zahn, Deerfield's director of park services, in his office, on Friday February 15, 2013. | Joel Lerner~Sun-Times Media
Updated: February 25, 2013 8:19AM
DEERFIELD — Jay Zahn’s two decades of experience with Des Plaines gave him the skills necessary to rise from his role as assistant superintendent of parks with the town to director of park services in Deerfield almost two years ago.
Today, he oversees the department’s staff and supervises the maintenance, upgrades, renovations, landscaping and construction of the parks, playgrounds and pools. Though he’s been with Deerfield for a short while, Zahn has worked with the parks department to bring about a number of improvements that include updates like a picnic shelter area, rest room facilities and extended walking trails at Woodland Park, and an expanded natural grass driving range tee area at the Deerfield Golf Course.
Q: Where did you grow up?
A: I grew up in the Madison, Wisconsin area. My first job was Des Plaines, and that’s what brought me to the Illinois area.
Q: Where do you currently live?
A: I have a wife of 17 years and two children — 16 and 14. They are at Warren Township High School in Gurnee, and Woodland Middle School in Gurnee. My son just got his license, so that’s a new experience for us.
Q: Where did you go to school?
A: I got a bachelor’s degree in science from the University of Wisconsin La Crosse in park and rec administration.
Q: What do you like about your job?
A: I like that every day is a little bit different — not like a factory job or on the computer all day, so I get to be out with people. I like working with people and the community, and keeping the facilities looking the best they can.
Q: What do you like about working in Deerfield?
A: We work together really well with the different groups — the schools, the churches — it’s a very tight-knit, educated group of people and they are vocal about what they want. They have high expectations for the parks and take a lot of interest in them.
Q: What inspired you to pursue a career in park services?
A: I was pretty involved in athletics as a kid and spent a lot of time in the parks, had summer jobs doing maintenance and grooming the ball fields. I spent a lot of time doing that and thought it was something I was interested in pursuing and kind of giving back to the community, as well, and making sure it was as nice as possible — particularly the parks .
Q: What has been your proudest moment or greatest achievement in your career?
A: I haven’t been with Deerfield for too long, but in Des Plaines, I was involved in some grant opportunities that we secured for some ball field improvements. I also helped implement about a $1.5 million project, where we did secure some grant money for that. It was nice looking back at the park when we completed the construction process. When I came on board in Deerfield, we implemented the big park renovation project at Woodland Park — and that’s something to be proud about.
Q: What are you future goals with the department?
A: To try to improve the infrastructure of aging facilities and parks. We are not looking to do any new projects as much as we are looking to take care of the existing facilities. Everything has an age and a life cycle, and we have to start replacing some of that — particularly playground equipment and some of the ball diamond area.
Q: What is your favorite restaurant?
A: I’ve always enjoyed Carson’s BBQ Ribs.
Q: What is your favorite sports team?
A: The Packers. My wife isn’t so it’s kind of interesting when we sit down to watch the Bears-Packers rival.
Q: Favorite music genre?
A: Rock and roll and jazz. I’m more classic rock. But if I’m feeling mellow, I like jazz. I used to play in high school, I was a drummer in the jazz band.
Q: Do you have a hobby you enjoy when you’re not working?
A: I enjoy sports and exercising. I used to do a lot of coaching. I like walking, running, jogging and playing basketball. Might play baseball this summer. I like to get outside, enjoy the outdoors and I like to barbeque.