The Winnetka Park District will soon have a new leader, but just how soon is not clear.
The new executive director will follow the retiring John Peterson, who was appointed to the position in April 2020. Prior to then, Peterson served on the Park Board from 2015 until 2019, serving as the board’s vice president beginning in 2018.
Peterson said he agreed to serve as executive director for three to five years. He is currently embarking on his fourth year and said he will retire when the Park Board selects his replacement.
“It’s been an honor to transition to support the staff for the WPD,” Peterson said. “More importantly to support the community in which my family and I live.”
The Winnetka Park Board of Commissioners oversees the executive director and must approve a new hire; however, Board President Christina Codo declined to comment on when the board wants to begin its search and when it would like Peterson’s replacement in place.
The executive director is the park district’s most senior and highest paid position. In 2022, the position earned an annual compensation package of at least $191,349 — up from $170,373 in 2021 but down from $199,922 in 2019, according to OpenTheBooks.com, a project from nonprofit American Transparency that pulled the data from the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund.
The Park Board voiced support on July 20 for a firm, GovHR, to provide recruitment, consulting and interim staffing services, to lead the search process. Peterson gave a report on GovHR during the Park Board meeting, including a cost estimate of $24,500.
GovHR would help the board with the initial recruiting process, including narrowing down candidates, Peterson said.
“I think they have proven themselves to be a valuable recruiting entity, along with some of the other services that they provide,” said Peterson at the July meeting.
The Park Board is also considering hiring Eppley Institute, a company that would aid in the hiring and recruitment process by evaluating final candidates and further narrowing the list for the board.
Peterson, a Winnetka resident since 2012 according to the WPD website, replaced John Muno as executive director. Muno held the role from 2017 until 2020, and Terry Schwartz was in the role before Muno.
Peterson helped lead multiple projects through his tenure, including the Centennial and Elder Beach project, the Winnetka Golf Club renovations and Tower Road staircase installation.
Peterson said he is keeping his options open for his life after the park district. He may begin another chapter in his career, spend more time with family and pursue some of his recreational interests.
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