After 44 years with the Bensenville Park District, Director Bob Jarecki will retire March 4.
The search already has begun for his replacement. District officials spent four days this week interviewing 11 candidates from an original pool of 50 to fill his post.
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Jarecki said he's been mulling his decision to step down for some time, and he is uncertain what he'll miss most from the job he's had "practically my whole life."
"We've had a lot of staff over the years, and I've seen a lot of people come and go, but I think the everyday interaction with everyone will be hard to let go," he said.
Jarecki joined the park district when he was just 15, working summers at the White Pines Golf Club. He continued working there throughout college and eventually became assistant groundskeeper.
He later was promoted to director of buildings and grounds for the entire district and was named parks director in 2007.
Jarecki said he's proud of the progress the district made in more than four decades. But he's particularly proud, he said, of the district's lobbying to allow zero-depth public swimming pools that are friendly for young children.
"Our park district was instrumental in changing the state law to be able to build a zero-depth swimming pool," Jarecki said. "We had to lobby a lot in Springfield in the early '80s, and now those pools seem to be the norm all over."
Jarecki's name is currently on the ballot to fill an opening on the Bensenville village board, a post he campaigned for and lost in 2003. After retirement, he will devote his extra energies to the campaign, he said.
"Serving on the board has always been an idea of mine, and I think now is a good time since relations are so much better with the new administration," he said.
The next round of interviews for potential directors will be determined next week, when the park board meets to discuss its findings from this week's meetings and to narrow its choices.