New Trustee Spotlight: Joe DeLuce

Feb 2024

Lifetime of experience with parks & recreation

If you are familiar with the park scene in Champaign-Urbana, you probably know the name Joe DeLuce. Joe spent 25 years working with the Champaign Park District, starting as director of recreation and stepping into the role of executive director in 2014. Before Champaign, Joe worked for parks & recreation departments all over the Midwest and the South, from Florida to Georgia and West Virginia to Ohio.

Growing up outside of Pittsburgh, Joe had his sights set on becoming a football coach until he learned that parks and recreation was available as a field of study and a career option. After graduating from Kent State University with a bachelor’s degree in Parks and Recreation Administration, he returned to his hometown and became their first ever director of parks and recreation….because he inspired the town council to create the position!

Two men (former Champaign Park District director Joe DeLuce and Urbana Park District director Tim Bartlett) standing under a tree in a park.

Joe has spent his career building partnerships and relationships that help parks & recreation departments thrive, currently putting that expertise to use as a consultant helping park districts across the country hire effective directors. He completed a masters degree at the University of Illinois in 2001 and has taught courses in foundations of community recreation in the Department of Recreation, Sport, and Tourism.

Some of the biggest changes in parks and recreation that Joe has noticed over the course of his life include the popularity of trails for walking, hiking, or biking. Trail additions/improvements have been one of the features residents request most. He has also noted more competition in past years between park districts and private companies or other organizations who offer similar types of recreational programs. But he has also noticed a shift in career moves with more people who would have previously gone into sports management drawn more and more frequently to parks and recreation departments.

Through his experience, Joe feels that some of the best ways our community can support the Urbana Park District is by supporting campaigns such as the youth scholarship fund and to help raise awareness of park district programs, so that more people know what is available to them and to help more families access the wide variety of offerings. He also notes the imporance of volunteers to help events and programs run smoothly.

The responsibilities of a park district are often more vast than most people realize. From flowers to trails to playground equipment to construction to events to classes and camps…as a park district director Joe has built up knowledge and experience across so many different areas.

Joe’s favorite Urbana park is Crystal Lake Park. He loves the variety the park offers and how it feels like a beautiful old-fashioned park. He really appreciates the recent improvements, the design of the park….and of course, the trails. He is also very excited for the new Health & Wellness facility and how it will fill a number of gaps and bring people together. We are honored to have Joe aboard and excited about the expertise he brings to the table!