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DuPage forest district chief announces retirement at 59

Brent Manning has announced his retirement as director DuPage County Forest Preserve District. | Submitted

Brent Manning has announced his retirement as director of the DuPage County Forest Preserve District. | Submitted

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Updated: July 2, 2012 8:11AM

Brent Manning thinks the time has come.

The executive director of the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County announced Friday that he will retire June 15, after nearly nine years in the agency’s top administrative post.

“It is something that a person aspires to do during their lifetime,” the 59-year-old Somonauk resident said. “I don’t know how long I’ll stay retired. My wife may kick me out of the house.”

The couple will likely stay in the area, though the 2 1/2-hour drive to see their grandchildren in Rochester could soon grow old.

“I do think from time to time that it would be nice to be a little bit closer to them,” said Manning, who earns $165,000 annually under a contract the district’s commissioners approved in September.

He leaves a string of satisfying achievements by the district since he came to the helm in 2003, though he declines to bask in the glory of its successes.

“I give full credit for all the things that have been done to the commissioners and the staff,” he said, noting in particular that the district has great financial stability. “The fact is to be able to do things that we do, we have to have the money.”

He said one issue that remains regrettably unresolved is the location of a fleet maintenance building at the district’s McKee Marsh site at the Blackwell Forest Preserve. The plan has encountered strong opposition from neighbors and others, who oppose the scale and intensity of use being proposed for the wooded site.

Noting that district crews “have to be changing oil in five degree below weather,” Manning said the staff continues trying to work out details and address misgivings about the project.

“Is this the right location? We think it is,” he said. “They’re working on that.”

An immediate replacement for Manning is not expected.

“In the interim, I’m assuming that a lot of what I do the deputy executive directors will be doing,” he said.

District President D. “Dewey” Pierotti Jr. said he’ll choose one of the two second-tier directors, Bob Vick or Mike Palazzetti, to fill in while a permanent replacement for Manning is found.

Both staff members have been with the district for more than a decade. Vick formerly was director of development and planning, then served as deputy director of natural resources. Palazzetti’s positions have included winter program services manager and director of land management.

Pierotti, who will need the board’s approval of his temporary appointee, said Manning’s decision to step down came as a surprise.

“This was really a shock, because for the last eight or nine years, Brent and I have been working closely together,” Pierotti said. “He gave a lot of input and insight, and his views were really very helpful.”

Before coming to the district, Manning filled a couple of other high-level jobs. During his time at the head of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, he was instrumental in Naperville’s receipt of a $200,000 grant in 1998 that helped fund the city’s first bike path, a one-mile segment of the DuPage River Trail. Manning led the state agency until February 2003, when he headed west to become director of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. He held that post for six months before returning to the Midwest.

to take the top administrative job at the forest district.

Pierotti said he aims to have a new director in place before the November board election, but he’s not in a rush.

“The board has to realize the needs we had ten years ago are different from what we have now,” he said. “In other words, what’s going to be important in the background and qualifications of the person we’re looking for now?”

He plans to talk to commissioners and department heads to find out what matters most to them in a new director for the evolving district.

“It’s not stagnant, it’s growing, and whomever we get for the job has to have the ability of not only managing the current operation, but have the foresight to manage the district in the future,” Pierotti said. “I feel all the pieces are in place, so the person we hire will have to come in and weld them all together.”

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