DuPage forest district employee named new leader

After seeing a string of executive directors come and go over the past five years, DuPage County Forest Preserve commissioners believe they've finally found the right person to lead the district.

The board on Tuesday unanimously approved the promotion of Ed Stevenson to become the district's new executive director. He will be paid an annual salary of $195,000.

Stevenson had served as acting executive director since Michael Hullihan resigned in November after less than 15 months on the job. Stevenson previously was the director of business enterprises.

"It's an awesome responsibility when we have assets like this district enjoys," Stevenson said Tuesday. "We have this open space and the opportunity to be stewards of that open space and finding ways to get the people out to enjoy it. So I'm excited about the years ahead."

Commissioner Mary Lou Wehrli said she's pleased Stevenson accepted his new role with the district, which hasn't had a long-term executive director since Brent Manning retired in June 2012 after 8½ years at the helm.

"Over the last five years, there have been seven executive or acting executive directors - a phenomenal five-year challenge that staff has really been very patient with," Wehrli said.

She and other commissioners said they're confident Stevenson will provide stable leadership.

Stevenson has been a full-time district employee since December 2004 and was named director of golf operations in February 2011.

Commissioner Al Murphy said Stevenson already is "very familiar" with how the district operates.

"He's knowledgeable and forward thinking," Murphy said. "I think he's somebody who will be with us for the long haul."

The board initially tried to replace Manning by hiring Arnie Biondo in December 2013. But the former executive director of the Carol Stream Park District lasted less than eight months on the job.

When Biondo left, commissioners voted three separate times, starting in mid-August 2014, to hire John Lapinski, a DuPage Circuit Court administrator, to be executive director. But Lapinski became ill during the process and eventually turned down the job.

The board then spent nearly a year looking for an executive director before hiring Hullihan in July 2015.

Commissioner Jeff Redick said Stevenson "has shown great leadership and a vision" during his time as acting executive director. Stevenson also oversaw the improvement of The Preserve at Oak Meadows golf course in Addison.

And unlike the board's previous choices for executive director, Redick said commissioners have worked with Stevenson.

"This isn't about an interview process or a resume," Redick said. "This (hiring) is based on a body of work."

As a result, Redick said he's optimistic.

"I'm really excited about where we're headed, and I think his leadership will be a big part of that," he said.

Stevenson will continue to have direct involvement in the oversight of the district's golf operations.

In the coming months, district staff members will begin working on several major initiatives, including the initiation of a districtwide master plan.

Ed Stevenson has been named executive director for the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County.

The search for a permanent director

The DuPage Forest Preserve Commission hired Ed Stevenson Tuesday as its latest executive director. Here's a look at the district's difficulty in finding a longtime leader:

June 2012: Executive Director Brent Manning retires after 8½ years citing health and family concerns.

December 2013: Board hires Arnie Biondo, executive director of the Carol Stream Park District, after more than a yearlong search; he receives a three-year contract.

August 2014: Officials announce Biondo will take early retirement; he says he was forced out of his post.

August 2014: Board hires John Lapinski, trial court administrator for DuPage's chief judge, after a two-week search; he signs a three-year contract.

September 2014: Board is forced to hire Lapinski a second time after a resident raises legal concerns about the first hiring.

September 2014: Board takes third vote to hire Lapinski after medical issues force him to push back his projected start date from Oct. 1 to Dec. 1.

November 2014: Lapinski says his medical issues prevent him from serving as executive director.

July 2015: Board hires Oak Brook Public Works Director Michael Hullihan; he receives a one-year contract.

August 2016: Hullihan gets another one-year contract, but without a raise.

November 2016: Hullihan resigns.

November 2016: Ed Stevenson named acting director after previously serving as director of business enterprise.

June 2017: Board hires Stevenson as executive director.

Source: Daily Herald archives

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