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Search firm holds public forum in quest for next DeKalb Park District director

DeKALB – Focus groups met Thursday with the search firm for the DeKalb Park District’s next director.

The public was invited to the last meeting of the day to provide input on the park district’s strengths, challenges and what traits are needed in a new director.

Although only three residents attended the meeting, Steve Persinger of the search firm Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates said several questionnaire responses have been emailed.

The meeting opened with introductions from the team representing the Rosemont-based search firm. Jane Hodgkinson said she, Persinger and Ray Morrill each have more than 40 years of experience with park districts in Geneva, Lisle and Wheaton, and the Western DuPage Special Recreation Association.

“As we hear from these focus groups, we begin to see recurring themes,” Hodgkinson said.

“This helps us to develop a profile for what the district wants in its next director,” she said.

The profile will be presented to the park board Jan. 29, Hodgkinson said. Interviews will begin in March with a slate of three to five candidates presented to the board by April 9. The board should be able to reach a decision by May.

“This is a long process, but we develop a picture that shapes the job announcements,” Hodgkinson said.

Morrill said HYA conducts extensive background and reference checks. Those reference checks are not limited to just the references candidates provide.

“We have a lot of contacts in the industry, so we check with a variety of people for background on candidates,” Hodgkinson said.

Morrill said informal recruiting already has begun.

Strengths identified by the public group present included the wide variety of parks and facilities that are well maintained, a board that is responsive to community needs, a pool, a diversity of activities and a friendly, polite staff.

Challenges included the pool renovation, board members needing to be on the same page, better communication is needed between the board and director, and public relations challenges created by past problems.

The group also created a list of traits it believed were important for a new director including aquatic knowledge, an interest in all areas of the district, good communication and collaboration skills, and the ability to hire good staff members as needed.

What’s next

The HYA team working with the park district plans to conduct more focus groups today.

A profile for the next director will be presented to the park board of trustees Jan. 29.

Candidate interviews will begin in March.

A slate of three to five candidates will be presented to the board by April 9.

The board should be able to reach a decision by May.

The team indicated these dates could change slightly if necessary.

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