Erica Beggs is the mother of a growing family and an involved resident always looking for ways to improve the parks in Great Neck.
As a result, she is running for a three-year term as commissioner in the Great Neck Park District against incumbent Frank S. Cilluffo.
“I feel like I am able to bring a fresh perspective into the parks district,” Beggs said during a sitdown interview with Blank Slate Media. “My background working with children and being a vocal member in the community I believe gives me a unique perspective on things.”
Beggs has been a guidance counselor at the North Shore Hebrew Academy in Great Neck for almost four years. Her background growing up as an avid skater in Lake Placid factored into her decision to run for parks commissioner.
”I trained at Lake Placid as a figure skater,” Beggs said. “I’m sure some people would bring this up, but my background with figure skating and the ice rink will not mean I will solely focus on that aspect of the parks if elected.”
Beggs’ involvement with the park district goes beyond a typical resident. She has been a skating instructor for the past 13 years and ran the Great Neck Park District skating school for four years. Under her supervision, the program was awarded for having one of the largest enrollments in the country.
She continued saying, “We need a safe space for our kids to go after school, even if they’re not a hockey player, or a figure skater or a tennis player.”
Beggs’ husband, Scott MacDonald, is a supervisor for Cuttermill and other neighboring parks. While she addressed the fact that some may question her ability to be impartial on matters involving MacDonald, she said she would recuse herself on any matter that fell under his jurisdiction.
In fact, Beggs touted her fairness and ability to be impartial while making decisions, saying she wanted to be a voice for the people who use the parks all the time. She went on to say that she would be excited to engage in a collaborative effort with the other commissioners if elected.
“I would certainly wish there to be some more transparency within the parks and their commissioners,” Beggs said. “Every dollar that is spent, the public should know where it goes. If I was elected, I would have no problem working and communicating with the other commissioners, and I would make sure everyone who uses these parks knows exactly what we’re doing with the money for them.”
She also mentioned the inclusion of new activities in the parks, not just for the youth of Great Neck.
“These parks are enjoyed by people of all ages, but the activities tend to be targeted for very specific age groups,” Beggs said. “I think including programs like a variety of fitness classes for adults at varying times would prove extremely beneficial, and there would be a great turnout.”
Beggs noted that the senior citizens who use facilities such as the Great Neck House do not have a place to go, with a need for a communal indoor facility an intriguing opportunity to explore.
“I’m not sure what exactly would need to be done or if it is possible,” she said in response to a question about a hypothetical construction of a new building for indoor recreation. “I would have to do a bit more research, but with all of the programs we could potentially include, it is an idea worth looking into more.”
Though there is a lack of some adult programming, Beggs reiterated that cultivating a strong park system for the children and all of the park district residents is a high priority.
“We need to build a park district so that our children want to raise their children here, and I believe I am the person who will best allow that to happen,” she said. “We need more kosher food options for our residents, and to make sure they have everything they need in a park to want to stay here.”
She also mentioned some other environmentally-conscious ideas potentially worth exploring, such as the use of solar panels and filtered water.
“I see that there’s not much recycling in the parks,” she said. “Environmentally, we need to focus on the beauty of our parks and focus on ways on how to continue to protect them.”
Beggs is determined to prove that she is not just a mother or a resident in the park district. She believes her extensive experience in the parks, background in recreation, and work with children as a guidance counselor leads her to be the most ideal choice in this election.
The election for parks commissioner will take place with other special district elections on Dec. 10 from 1 to 9 p.m.
The district is divided into four sectors for polling purposes.
The 1st District encompasses the Village of Kings Point, Saddle Rock Estates and areas of the Village of Great Neck that are east of Middle Neck Road and north of Hicks Lane and west of Middle Neck Road. The polling place for District 1 is the Great Neck House at 14 Arrendale Ave.
The 2nd District encompasses the area of the Village of Great Neck that is east of Middle Neck Road and unincorporated areas of the Town of North Hempstead that are south of the Village of Great Neck and north of the Village of Kensington. The polling place for District 2 is also the Great Neck House.
The 3rd District encompasses the villages of Great Neck Plaza, Thomaston, and Kensington. The polling place is the Great Neck Senior Citizens Center at 80 Grace Ave.
The 4th District encompasses the Village of Russell Gardens and other unincorporated areas within the town. These areas are the Great Neck Terrace Apartments, Lakeville, Upland, Lake Success Hills and Manor sections of Great Neck, and all other areas bounded by Great Neck Road on the north and west, Northern Boulevard on the south, and Middle Neck Road on the east. The polling place for District 4 is the Manhasset-Lakeville Fire District’s Company No. 4 Firehouse on 97 Jayson Ave.
Residents who are 18 years of age or older and have resided in the Great Neck Park District for at least 30 days prior to the election and are registered with the Nassau County Board of Elections are eligible to vote.