When Roberta “Bobbie” English stepped into the role of executive director at Wildlife Prairie Park last November, she arrived with a focus on developing and strengthening relationships throughout the community and enhancing the Park’s revenue streams. She also has a passion for creating a positive workplace culture where employees are able to reach their fullest potential.
English was formerly the chief operating officer at Neighborhood House, where she spent six years serving children and the elderly. She has a great interest in community service and public policy, and leads the board of directors for Illinois State Senator Chuck Weaver’s Leaders Change Illinois initiative, which has donated over $100,000 to various community projects. She is a Rotarian, a board member of the Business Political Action Committee of Central Illinois, and a member of Jack and Jill of America, Inc., an organization dedicated to nurturing future African American leaders.
Prior to her career in nonprofits, English spent 10 years as a television reporter, anchor and producer in Kansas City, Mo.; Dayton, Ohio; Fort Smith, Ark.; Washington, DC; and Chicago. She holds a bachelor’s and master’s degree from Northwestern University, and lives in Peoria with her three children.
- Words to live by: “You your best thing, Sethe. You are.” It’s from Beloved by Toni Morrison. I read it many years before I would need the healing those words bring. In the book, Paul D tells the main female character Sethe this because she had lost her sense of value and worth after horrific events involving her children. She believed her worth came from being a mother, as many of us mothers do. After my divorce, I had to learn that my value and worth did not come from being someone’s wife. “You your best thing, Bobbie.” I had to say that a lot. Still do sometimes.
- Last novel read: Leading Change by John P. Kotter. Children’s Home CEO Matt George is a mentor and he gave me this book when I got to Wildlife Prairie Park. It’s fantastic and insightful!
- Which living person do you most admire? My mother. She never gives up.
- If you could only retrieve one item on the way out of your burning house, what would it be? The wallet that holds all of our passports.
- Most impulsive thing I’ve ever done: Right after college I moved to Ireland and got a job waitressing. I didn’t know anything about Ireland, just that it was English-speaking and I could easily get a work permit. I definitely had culture shock, but I loved it.
- Nobody in my office knows… I’m allergic to animals.
- The one TV show I usually don’t tell people I watch is… Shameless. I actually put a picture of the Gallagher clan on my refrigerator.
- Who is your favorite hero of fiction? Violet, the Dowager Countess of Downton Abbey.
- What or who inspires you? The saints. I often need to be reminded that people died—and many still do die—for their faith.
- If Hollywood made a movie about you, who would you want to play you? Regina King. I wish I was as tough as she is in Watchmen. PM