New Elmwood Park director promotes healthy living
Alan Schmidt, Elmwood Park's new director of the recreation department, leads a seniors exercise class at the Civic Center three times a week. | Jon Langham~for Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 21, 2012 1:30PM
ELMWOOD PARK — In 1975, Al Schmidt was talked out of becoming a physical education teacher, but destiny, it seems, pulled him back to the field.
Schmidt, 56, has been the director of the Elmwood Park Department of Parks and Recreation since March, replacing Don Kmiecik, who retired. Prior to the promotion, he worked as an instructor for the department for about 12 years.
He said this is what he’s always wanted to do.
“I really enjoy it,” he said. “It’s a lot of hours, but I enjoy being about people. I’ve been around exercise and athletics my entire life.”
Before coming to the field, Schmidt chose the business world, getting his bachelor’s degree in business management from Baker University in Baldwin City, Kansas in 1979. He then went to Northern Illinois University, where he received his master’s degree in business administration.
Although he spent 19 years as a commodities trader for the Chicago Board of Trade, athletics were always a part of his life. In 1999, he left the business arena for the Elmwood Park Department of Parks and Recreation.
“I’m a big believer in that God answers your prayers,” he said. “Sometimes God puts what you need right in front of you when you open your eyes.”
In addition to his duties as the director of parks and recreation, he is an adjunct instructor at Triton College, teaching health classes. Schmidt advocates for healthy living in terms of diet and exercise and promotes it in class.
“It’s about knowledge of food,” he said. “If I reach one or two people a semester, I’m proud.”
He wants to do the same in his new position, providing activities and programs that promote a healthy lifestyle and exercise. He is planning a health fair, Get Fit 2012, for the community next month, providing free medical screenings, which will keep participants motivated or show them they have to take better care of themselves.
“I want them focused on themselves,” he said. “Before you take the splinter out of our neighbor’s eye, you should take the timber out of your own.”
He said he wants to motivate people to live better and is happy that, in his new capacity as director, he can make that happen.
“I’m jacked to the sky to be able to be a factor in people’s lives,” he said. “Funny how God works.”