The longtime executive director of Carol Stream Park District, Arnold Biondo, has been picked to fill the top administrative post at the DuPage County Forest Preserve District.
Biondo's selection as executive director was approved Tuesday by district commissioners. He replaces Brent Manning, who stepped down in June 2012 citing health and family concerns.
"I'm looking forward to forging more community partnerships to help better communicate the wonderful amenities the forest preserve district provides county residents," Biondo said in a written statement. "I live in DuPage County and know of the phenomenal preserves and their benefits. But I believe we need to connect more with citizens to ensure everyone knows how they can benefit from our preserves."
As executive director, Biondo will help oversee 60 preserves covering roughly 25,000 acres with 145 miles of trails and five education centers.
He received a three-year contract that will pay him $188,000 annually. His first day on the job is Jan. 13.
The 60-year-old Biondo has served since 1995 as executive director of the Carol Stream Park District. During his tenure, the district received two National Gold Medal Awards for excellence from the National Recreation and Parks Association, officials said. The National Gold Medal Award is the highest recognition a parks and recreation agency can receive.
Officials said Biondo is credited with effectively managing the park district's $6 million budget and helping it receive recognition as an Illinois Accredited Agency in 2008 and 2013.
Biondo was named to his new job after the forest preserve district did a nationwide search that began in June. More than 110 people from across the country applied for the position. Two finalists were interviewed by forest preserve commissioners.
Forest preserve President D. "Dewey" Pierotti Jr. said he looks forward to working with someone from DuPage who will continue to ensure the district remains "the premier conservation agency in the country."
"DuPage County residents love their forest preserves and that legacy must be preserved for future generations," Pierotti said in a statement.
Pierotti has been serving as the district's interim executive director since Manning's departure, but he isn't getting extra pay. He receives an annual salary of $112,258 for being district president.
Forest preserve officials didn't start the search for Manning's replacement right away because they wanted to wait until after the November 2012 election, in which half the district's six-member board turned over.
Pierotti said he's pleased with the end result. "We'll move into the new year with a new executive director and a fresh start," he said.