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Barbara Heller

Well known throughout the industry for her expertise in leading park and recreation agencies and her commitment to innovation and best practices, Barbara operates outside of the typical parks and recreation industry mindset. Her experience was grounded in her work for large systems in Maryland, Virginia, Texas and Illinois and was director of two park districts in the Chicago land area. She was renowned for her leadership qualities and successfully designing work cultures that created high performance.

Barbara has frequently appeared at state and national conferences during the last 15 years. Heller has a reputation of delivering excellent content and making presentations interesting through humor and outlandish antics. Her work is defined by high energy, passion, and strong connections with clients.

While at the Elk Grove Park District, Heller won the Commitment to Excellence Award based on Malcolm Baldrige criteria. She has been a long time member of the American Society for Quality and has been a practitioner and a consultant that espouses lean practices and quality approaches. Her particular areas of expertise include strategic and master planning, public facilitation, staff training, operation and program assessments, and service quality. She has implemented dozens of strategic plans and includes the Balanced Scorecard approach to strategy. She is a huge Nittany Lion fan, having done her undergraduate work at the Pennsylvania State University and completed her graduate degree in Public Administration at the American University in Washington DC.

Eric Heller

Eric comes from the corporate restructuring industry firm Zolfo Cooper, a leader in crisis management and bankruptcy administration. Working on client engagements in Michigan, Colorado and Virginia, Eric’s leadership in managing the financial and operational stability of organizations across multiple industrial and financial disciplines has helped saved millions of stakeholder value.

Eric graduated from the University of Michigan with a BA in Economics. He decided to use his business experience to help launch Heller and Heller as well as provide feasibility support and manage the company’s day-to-day finances.

Margo Heller

Margo graduated from the streets of Chicago eight years ago, and as a result, is lean, mean, and fiercely independent. We keep Margo behind the scenes, as she does not interface well with clients. She is known to hiss, bite, and hold her ground when threatened. She is particularly effective at public meetings that get out of control. She is available for those tough public meetings that you just dread. She’ll take care of business for you.




Mary Gardocki

Mary has worked for three park districts in a planning, capital projects and asset management roles. At each park district, she implemented or expanded the use of GIS (geographic information systems) as a useful and analytical tool for land management agencies. In addition, Mary has extensive park planning experience including land acquisitions, leases, land policies, annexations, new developments, site refurbishing, environmental issues, encroachments, and easements. Mary graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a Master Degree of Landscape Architecture. She also holds a Master Degree in Liberal Studies related to the integration of technology and society. Granted, she is no “Margo,” but she does enjoy a good challenge and expects excellence in the execution of any assignment.

Charles Trongnetpanya

Chuck has extensive experience with information systems, having designed and integrated software and hardware systems for three park systems as well as having worked as a Senior Consultant for a technology firm. Chuck isn't one of those geek/nerd information technology guys who has no sense of humor and doesn't understand internal customer needs. He actually has a charming personality and has significant experience and capacity in developing strategic and operational technology planning, technology and business linkage, emerging technologies and enterprise architecture. In addition, he has analytical information mining skills to assist agencies with the use of data for decision making. Chuck has a BS in Telecommunications Management from DeVRY University. He is currently enrolled in the Keller Graduate School of Management with a concentration in Project Management. In addition he has Project Management and Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer Certifications. 

How We Work


A basic tenet of establishing good client partnerships is the use of the guiding principal of balancing advocacy and inquiry. Heller and Heller believe in the importance of active and careful listening techniques. Inquiry, or having a good understanding of clients' needs is the cornerstone of how we approach each job. It is only after we have a good understanding of needs, do we engage in advocating recommendations. We pride ourselves on establishing excellent relationships with our clients as evidenced by our testimonials. Part of this comes from infusing the process with humor and fun.


Authenticity is having congruency between what one says and what one does. As such, a consulting firm involved in planning, such as strategic planning or master planning should demonstrate alignment between client recommendations for strategy and sophisticated business practices and how the consulting company is run.

Heller and Heller are strategically focused in the way we do business. We have a well- defined strategic plan, commitment to deployment of our mission, vision, and guiding principles, and practice continuous improvement through process reviews and customer satisfaction measurement systems. We constantly practice what we preach.

Industry Connection with a Practitioner’s Attitude

We obviously stay connected to the industry through our consulting experiences, but absent learning about the most sophisticated business approaches to organizational development, the status quo is perpetuated. Heller and Heller have played a part in developing the Illinois based Innovation Renovation for professionals and also have a best practices group of nationwide leading professionals serving as an advisory board to work with us in ensuring innovation in our consulting practices and recommendations. In addition, there is an organizational commitment to learning to ensure the most contemporary practices are developed.

Social responsibility

A percentage of all profits will go toward scholarship programs of park and recreation agencies around the United States. In addition, Heller and Heller Consulting is dedicated to sustainable practices, including the use of green printing companies and identifying ways to reduce our carbon footprint.

Guiding Principles
  • Client focused...listening to the client, learning as deeply about the organization as possible in order to develop value added strategies.
  • Continuous improvement..continuously improving processes, authenticity in what we do and say; we improve organizations and we always work to improve our services based on client feedback.
  • Beyond the industry..including best practices within the park and recreation industry, but looking beyond to include best in class approaches from other sectors as well.
  • Sustainability..developing strategies and solutions that become imbedded in the culture, including leadership infrastructure and a commitment to sound environmental solutions and practices.
  • Laugh a lot..enjoying work with a passion and infusing the process with a sense of humor and some quirkiness.