After a seven-month search, the Glen Ellyn Park District needed to look no further than its own backyard for its new executive director.
Dave Harris, a 19-year resident of Glen Ellyn who has spent more than 20 years in park district management, was selected as the new park director by the park district board Thursday.
The board's selection of Harris, 48, comes at the conclusion of a nationwide search by Rosemont-based Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates, which collected applications from over 50 candidates seeking the post.
Board members interviewed the top four candidates, but Board President Melissa Creech said Harris stood out for his well-rounded experience in parks.
"We're lucky we found a Glen Ellyn resident who understands Glen Ellyn and our parks," Creech said.
The search began after Cory Atwell, who spent 16 years as executive director, retired in January.
Under an employment agreement approved by park board commissioners, Harris will be paid $117,000 a year, and have a $250 per month automobile allowance and 20 vacation days per year.
When Atwell retired, his salary was $140,400 a year, and he had use of a park district vehicle. The district has since sought to sell that vehicle.
The park district agreement with Harris runs from Sept. 7, 2011, through March 6, 2013.
For the past two years, Harris has been executive director of the Butterfield Park District, which covers an area that includes unincorporated Glen Ellyn. Harris spent 19 years working for the Park District of Highland Park, where he oversaw operation of a new recreation and fitness center, nature center, golf course, pools, water park and an indoor ice rink.
Harris said his first job related to parks management was as assistant manager of an ice rink in Winnetka. He applied for the position after seeing a job posting at the rink, where he was a member of a men's hockey league.
"I never knew this industry existed," Harris said. "This combined all my interests."
Harris said his family is involved in park district programs and are members of the Ackerman Sports & Fitness Center.
Since the election of Creech and two other park board commissioners in 2009, there's been division on the park board over the Ackerman facility, a proposed safety village and other issues related to spending. In May, three like-minded commissioners who ran on a slate emphasizing fiscal restraint joined the board.
Harris said a major challenge for any public agency is its financial stability. He said the park district is tasked with meeting the demands of its residents, while maintaining or minimizing the financial burden on them.
He said it would be his responsibility to engage and involve board members and allow them to make decisions and set policy for the park district.
Mike Fugiel will continue as interim executive director until Harris takes over in September.