Walter L. Cook, the chief of executive officer of the Mount Prospect Park District, will resign early next year, ending a 32-year career that included two decades as the agency's top administrator.
Cook's resignation effective March 29 was formally accepted last week by the district's board of commissioners, which now will establish a hiring committee to search for his successor.
"I have had the privilege of working with extraordinary boards, the most committed and caring employees, generous volunteers and community supporters," Cook said in his retirement statement.
Cook joined the park district in 1981 as superintendent of parks and planning, project manager and licensed landscape architect. He was promoted two years later to superintendent of parks and planning, a position in which he served until his appointment as CEO in 1993.
Under Cook's leadership, the park district grew from a $3.5 million organization maintaining 337 acres to a $17 million business with 506 acres of park space. He is credited with building Big Surf Wave Pool, the first outdoor wave pool in the state of Illinois; constructing the RecPlex recreation center, the Mount Prospect Golf Course Club House, Friendship Park Conservatory, Central Community Center, Meadow Family Aquatic Center and the Veterans Memorial Band Shell; and the property purchase and redevelopment of The Studio and the Park District's Carboy Maintenance Facility.
A few of the major park developments directly attributed to Cook, according to the park district, include Melas Park, Hill Street Nature Center, Metro Majewski Athletic Complex, Lions, Sunset and Friendship parks. Under Cook's leadership the district received the Certificate of Achievement in Financial Reporting for the past 13 consecutive years.
He also oversaw the district's side of an agreement to share an artificial turf field at Prospect High School; a 25-year deal with Metropolitan Water Reclamation District for the recreational use of Melas Park; and the creation of a Sept. 11 memorial at Friendship Park.
"Walt has created a vision for the future that will allow this park district to thrive far beyond his tenure," park board President John Eilering said.