After almost two years without a leader at the helm, the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County finally has a new executive director.
Arnold Biondo – or “Arnie” as he prefers – spent his first week on the job shaking hands with his new co-workers and getting to know the nooks and crannies of the district.
When he saw that the organization needed a new executive director, Biondo also saw an opportunity to help the forest preserve become more immersed in the everyday lives of its constituents.
“The forest preserve has built over 30 years this phenomenal foundation of preserves 25,000 acres [and] that really appealed to me,” said Biondo. “I love that challenge of how do I get in there now and the people that went before me did all this work, now how can I connect this with people in the county.”
Naperville resident and forest preserve board member Mary Lou Wehrli, says community engagement is a big thing that’s been lacking for years and is optimistic Biondo can turn that around.
“That is something that will increase in 2014 – Not only our work as stewards but also our information exchange with the public and community outreach,” said Wehrli.
During his 20 year tenure as the carol stream park district’s executive director, he helped it gain accreditation and two national gold medals for excellence.
Wehrli and the other board members agreed that experience could do well for the DuPage forest preserve at this time.
“He comes with a lot of energy and a great deal of experiences, not only in parks and recreation, but also in DuPage County,” said Wehrli. “We’re very comfortable with his style, his enthusiasm, his administrative background and his ability to hopefully create partnerships for the forest preserve to develop a stronger financial footing, to encourage and empower the employees.”
To empower the employees and to get them on the same page after working for nearly two years without one leader to get them working cohesively.
It’s really how an organizations has to operate in order to be in our case able to deliver the best services to the residents who support us with taxes,” said Biondo. “It’s really important to get us on the same page, get a common direction, and that’s the biggest challenge I have in the first year.”
More short-term, Biondo hopes to meet with all the forest preserve commissioners within his first two weeks and within his first 100 days, wants to visit every one of the more than 60 forest preserves.
The Forest Preserve District of DuPage County owns and manages more than 25,000 acres of open land, about 12% of the total land within the county.
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