Long-time director of the Carol Stream Park District Arnie Biondo will take over the same post for the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County on Jan. 13 after nearly 20 years of service in Carol Stream.
Under his watch, the park district received two National Gold Medals for Excellence, state accreditation, awards in financial reporting and had two successful referenda.
Suburban Life reporter Nathan Lurz recently spoke with Biondo.
Lurz: You spent a long time at Carol Stream’s park district. What was your time like there?
Biondo: Maybe it sounds funny, but it’s been a dream job, and I’ve been able to tell people this the whole time I’ve been here. I have never once woken up in the morning and said ‘Oh, ugh, I have to go to work.’
I’ve had plenty of jobs where I would wake up and say ‘Oh, gross,’ but every day I’ve looked forward to coming in, working with a bunch of friendly people, working with a bunch of very concerned and passionate residents.
Lurz: What do you feel some of your major accomplishments or moments there have been?
Biondo: We went from being an okay park district to being named best in the country twice. Now, we have top notch facilities, top notch staff, a real metamorphosis from where we were in 1995 to where we are now.
It’s a heck of an accomplishment for any group of people to get there, no matter where you start from. But to be clear, it wasn’t Arnie Biondo, it was Arnie Biondo working with a whole bunch of good people along the way.
Lurz: What was your reaction when you got the Forest Preserve District job?
Biondo: People ask me ‘Are you excited?’ and I say ‘I must be too old to be excited.’ But I’m certainly looking forward to starting. Really, I’m leaving the best park district in the state of Illinois for the best forest preserve in Illinois.
It’s a terrific preserve system, with obviously great land, really interesting facilities and some really wonderful programs, so my job is to step in and say ‘Hey, you’ve got this great thing, how do we make it better?’ And those are the kinds of challenges that I’ve always enjoyed.
Lurz: What challenges are facing the district?
Biondo: There’s a lot of really strong forest preserve supporters ... so, how do we get people who are supporters of the forest preserve to get to be really behind it?
I want people to care enough that if there is an issue that negatively affects the forest preserve that nine out of 10 people in DuPage County would say ‘Over my dead body, that’s important to our quality of life.’
Lurz: What direction are you hoping to take the district?
Biondo: I think the key thing is that we’re really going to be open to whomever in the county sees an opportunity to get a strategic partnership going. I see an opportunity to expand what we’re already doing with school systems, but also with park districts or businesses, et cetera.
The other thing I see with the forest preserve is that I want it to become second nature that when someone has a question or thought in DuPage County about the environment, that instead of going to Wikipedia, they go to the DuPage County Forest Preserve. I want it to be a resource for the residents.