May 20, 2014 | 03:01 PMIt’s not going to be an easy job.
Sylvia Martinez-Mullally stepped in as the city’s first-ever parking supervisor on May 1.
Right now, she’s observing. She’s taking walks with the parking officers and getting to know the Luke II parking system.
“I’m just the observer right now,” Martinez-Mullally said in a recent interview. “At this point, I’m very brand new.”
She has yet to officially attend her first meeting of the Lake Geneva Parking Commission, although she said she’s had an informal conversation with commission chairman Martin Smith.
So, at this time, she’s careful about making suggestions or talking about possible improvements in the system.
Mayor Jim Connors said the new supervisor will eventually be asked to analyze the city’s parking and proposing improvements.
She will also be a liasion with downtown business owners and the chamber of commerce, he said. Connors said the supervisor will also implement recommendations in the city’s recent parking study.
So far, what she’s seen impresses her.
“I think the city offers good options for residents,” she said, citing the city sticker program, that allows residents with a valid sticker to park in metered parking stalls for free for up to two hours daily.
She said she was also impressed with the city’s generosity in allowing up to two hours free parking for everyone between Nov. 1 and April 30, every year.
“I’m excited to be here,” she said. She said she’s just now learning about the parking system and getting “integrated” into the process.
Martinez-Mullally said she realizes that the newness will wear off. And some folks will take their parking frustrations out on the person who heads the department with the name that starts with “Parking … “
But Martinez-Mullally said she’s dealt with irate people clutching parking tickets.
Because for the past 11 years, Martinez-Mullally headed the parking department at Chicago State University. The university has a student body of about 5,000 and a staff of about 1,100, she said.
Martinez-Mullally said she’s been yelled at by a wide variety of parking “experts” who received parking tickets from her staff. In Chicago, parking tickets are no small deal.
Parking tickets at Chicago State start at $75 and can run as high as $250, depending on the parking offense, Martinez-Mullally said.
At Chicago State, Martinez-Mullally headed a staff of 15 full-time employees and led a department that wasn’t just concerned with parking, but also handled maintenance for university and police vehicles, and provided courtesy rides and shuttle service for university visitors.
She and her department also worked with the Illinois State Police, who had a station on campus, and from time to time they cooperated with the Chicago Police Department.
Martinez-Mullally said her responsibility was more than just parking, it was also public safety.
In comparing the parking meters systems between Lake Geneva and Chicago State, Martinez-Mullally said Lake Geneva’s is a better system. At Chicago State, staff carried cash from the machines for deposit.
In the Luke system, cash is contained within locked metal canisters and only a few people have keys.
Like many Chicagoans, Martinez-Mullally is no stranger to Lake Geneva.
She and her husband, Ian, own a house in Powers Lake. She said her husband, an engineer who also loves gardening and farming, bought the house eight years ago.
Martinez-Mullally said she and her family made regular trips to Lake Geneva.
“We enjoy the lake and came on weekends,” she said. “I always thought it was a well-kept family oriented city,” she said of Lake Geneva.
She said she and her husband moved here because of the quality of life. Their daughter is getting ready to start school, and the family is looking for a good kindergarten.
Matrinez-Mullally said that while locals might think the traffic was heavy, being from Chicago, she’s used to heavy traffic.
She said the charm of Lake Geneva is walking through the community.
“The whole point of visiting Lake Geneva was getting out of the car and walking,” she said.
“Lake Geneva is a busy city and it has parking demand, and I think it helps businesses to know that we’re managing it for them,” Martinez-Mullally said.
She said she’s not surprised by the city’s lack of parking. In fact, a parking problem is a good sign, because it means there’s a demand, she said.
It is a coincidence that Martinez-Mullally is from the same state as Rich & Associates, the company that did the city’s most recent parking study.
Martinez-Mullally is from Bay City, Mich., while Rich & Associates headquarters in Southfield, is 103 highway miles to the south.
But Martinez-Mullally said she moved to Chicago almost immediately after graduating from high school.
She said she took classes at Columbia University, but finished her college education at Chicago State University, on the city’s south side, with a Bachelor of Liberal Arts degree.
Since then, she’s added a master’s degree in public administration from Governor’s State University in Richland Park, Ill. She is also a certified parking professional.