An outside consultant will evaluate the entire operation of the DuPage County Forest Preserve District in the wake of large-scale staffing changes, including the departure of its executive director.
Brent Manning officially stepped down this week after more than eight years at the helm, citing family and health concerns. The district has taken no immediate steps to replace him or begin the hunt for his successor.
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In addition, longtime public affairs director Bill Weidner retired in May and has not been replaced. Two other high-ranking officials, attorney Bob Mork and Finance Director Carole Hoffman, died this spring.
In addition, the six-member forest preserve commission is poised for significant changes this fall with three incumbents -- Carl Schultz, Mike Formento and Roger Kotecki -- preparing to step down after the November election.
Amid that turmoil, commissioners recently approved plans for a three-member evaluation committee to seek bids from consulting firms.
The committee includes Michael Del Galdo, a Berwyn-based attorney whose firm works for many municipalities and who served as a special counsel for the district last year; Robert Hutchinson, president of Wheaton Bank and a board member for The Conservation Foundation; and John J. Dalicandro, who retired this year after serving 23 years as Elmwood Park village manager.
Forest preserve President D. "Dewey" Pierotti Jr. said the three were chosen because they have expertise in areas that affect the forest preserve, but are not directly involved with the district and can offer an outside perspective.
"Now that we are going through all these dramatic changes, and no one has reviewed our internal operations since the mid-1980s, I think this would be a good time," Pierotti said.
So far, the committee has received six bids and it will present commissioners with the top two consulting firms within 30 days. After that, Pierotti said he hopes the assessment will take another two months, and at that point the search for a new executive director will commence on a nationwide scale.
"Based on the assessment, that may change the job description of a lot of different positions, including the executive director," Pierotti said.
He said he is considering the idea of co-directors, with one who specializes in finance and another with expertise in environmental issues, to oversee the district's $43 million operating budget and 315 employees.
Pierotti said it's too early to say what the salaries might be. Manning received roughly $150,300 a year, with health and pension benefits.
Officials hope to appoint a new director, or directors, before the November election, Pierotti said. Until then he will divide Manning's responsibilities between himself and deputy directors Mike Palazetti and Bob Vick.
Pierotti said he will head the finance, human resources, information technology and law enforcement departments. Vick will be in charge of planning, natural resources and environmental services. Palazetti will oversee education, fundraising, golf operations, land management and public affairs.