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Article posted: 5/21/2013 4:18 PM

New DuPage forest preserve director unlikely before September

By Robert Sanchez

It's been almost a year since Brent Manning stepped down as executive director of the DuPage County Forest Preserve District, and finding his replacement already is taking longer than anticipated.

Now district officials are predicting they won't name someone to the top administrative job before September.

"No one is going to be happier than I am when the position of executive director is filled," forest preserve President D. "Dewey" Pierotti Jr. said Tuesday.

In addition to his responsibilities as commission president, Pierotti has been serving as interim executive director since Manning's departure last June.

Still, Pierotti said, the important thing is that the right person is found to lead the district.

"I'd rather be accused of taking a little too much time than being accused of picking the wrong person," he said.

On Tuesday, forest preserve commissioners agreed to pursue contract negotiations with The Alford Group, the firm they're interested in hiring to do a nationwide search for a director.

Once the search firm is in place, it most likely will take about 90 days for the district to name a new leader, according to district spokeswoman Susan Olafson.

Pierotti acknowledged the process is taking longer than he expected. But there have been valid reasons to delay, he said.

For starters, Pierotti said, officials wanted to wait until after the November election, which brought a 50 percent turnover on the six-member forest preserve board.

"Some of the people who were going to be on the board said it wouldn't be fair if the old board chose the new executive director," he said. "So we delayed it until the new board was in place."

Mary Lou Wehrli, one of the three new commissioners, said "everything has been done to expedite the schedule" since the new board has been seated.

"That's just how long these things take," Wehrli said. "It's unfortunate it's taken us this long to get to this point."

Wehrli said she's more concerned about the previous board's decision not to hire an acting executive director to focus on the daily operation of the district. She said the work Pierotti is doing "is nowhere near the same."

"There are individuals -- retired executive directors and other professionals -- available to come in on an interim basis to be present on a day-to-day basis to help staff navigate the business of the forest preserve," Wehrli said. "We don't have that in my opinion."

Pierotti defended the work he's doing as interim executive director, adding that he's devoting a considerable amount of time to the role.

"I don't feel it's diminishing the effectiveness of the district," Pierotti said, "but it has taken its toll on me."

Pierotti isn't getting extra pay for serving as interim executive director. He receives an annual salary of $112,258 for being president of the district.

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