DuPage Forest Preserve District Executive Director Brent Manning resigned Friday and will step down June 15 after 8½ years at the helm.
Manning, 59, said he has been talking to forest preserve commissioners about his pending departure for the past week and informed his staff Friday. He said his decision was triggered by personal health and family concerns.
"I've enjoyed this (job) very, very much," he said. "This is a great organization and a great commission."
Manning joined the district, which encompasses 25,000 acres and 60 preserves, in October 2003 after a brief stint heading Wyoming's Fish and Game Department. Prior to that, he spent 12 years as director of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.
On Friday, he was quick to deflect any credit for the district's accomplishments during his tenure.
"If there were successes here, they belong to the president, commission and employees," he said. "Any failures were mine."
Some of those successes, he said, included maintaining the district's Triple A bond rating, continuing its long-range financial plan, creating an education department and acquiring open space.
"I'm very proud that our forest preserves are clean, safe and well cared for," he said.
If Manning is reluctant to accept credit, forest preserve commission President Dewey Pierotti is quick to praise the outgoing director.
"I'm going to miss him terribly," Pierotti said. "The forest preserve's hiring of him in 2002 was probably the best move we ever made. He's been instrumental in all of our successes over the past decade.
"He was more than my executive director, he became a close personal friend who I have come to rely on unequivocally."
Manning said it was difficult to tell his staff he is leaving, but there are several projects on the horizon this summer that the district can look forward to, including the opening of an archery range, urban fisheries center and handicapped-accessible fishing pier at Blackwell Forest Preserve near Warrenville.
For the next few weeks, though, Manning said he will concentrate primarily on maintaining the district's current direction. He said he also will meet individually with commissioners to outline the district's proposed $40 million operating budget that will kick in with the start of the new fiscal year on July 1.
He said he has two deputy directors -- Bob Vick and Mike Palazzetti -- who are "fabulous" and he expects one of them to be appointed interim director while the district launches a search for his permanent replacement.
Pierotti, who plans to step down from the commission in November 2014, said he's not looking forward to searching for Manning's replacement.
"The board hasn't discussed how we're going to replace him," Pierotti said. "Whoever comes in here is going to have tough shoes to fill."
• Daily Herald Staff Writer Elisabeth Mistretta contributed to this report.