Managing more than 60 forest preserves in DuPage County and leading a team of over 300 employees is no easy task, but it’s all part of the job for the new Executive Director of the forest preserve, Mike Hullihan.
With a background in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and several years as the Village Engineer of Public Works in Oakbrook, Hullihan’s experience has prepared him for his journey ahead.
“If you build a dam, you’re going to make a lake, if you make a lake, people are going to want to boat, on it, want to camp on it, and then you have to preserve those areas and organize the recreational use of them. So a couple of those positions that I was in was very close to being a forest preserve Executive Director, so it’s almost as if I was in a training position for this job,” said Hullihan.
About a month into his new role, Hullihan takes his responsibility to the land and the people who visit it seriously.
But he also faces challenges as he steps into the position at a critical time for the forest preserve.
“We have had a significant turn-over of personnel, we lost about 50 people in an early retirement initiative and so that’s about 1/7 of our workforce, so we’re already in the re-training, re-organizing, re-inventing some of the processes to make up for the significant loss,” said Hullilan.
He’s also cognizant of managing outside forces- whether invasive species threatening the terrain or protecting the land from human damage.
“It’s a constant struggle to keep human activities from damaging the forest preserve and we really do need a focused outlook. We want to make sure that everyone leaves our great forest preserve in better condition then they entered them in,” said Hullihan.
But no matter what comes his way, Hullihan is eager to face it, head on.
“It’s the best job in the world and I’m very fortunate to have it, it’s kind of my capstone of my career, so I’m getting a sore face because I’m smiling about 23 and half hours a day,” said Hullihan.
Naperville News 17’s Alyssa Bochenek Reports.
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