The Park District of Forest Park has named a new executive director, after longtime director Larry Piekarz announced he was retiring after nearly three decades of service. Officials named Jackie Iovinelli as the new face of the park district. She said she is the fourth executive director in the Park District’s 84-year history and first woman to hold the post.

“I’ve known Larry for many years; he’s kind of been a mentor and I’ve had a lot of respect for him over the years,” said Iovinelli, of River Grove. “When I knew he was going to be retiring, it was definitely something I was interested in for my own personal career growth because it’s such an awesome Park District. The community, I can’t say enough good things about it.”

Iovinelli spent the last 12½ years as superintendent of recreation with the Park District of Franklin Park and, prior to that, held the same position for six years at the Park District of Clarendon Hills, according to her LinkedIn profile. She earned a master’s degree in recreation administration from Aurora University, and received a bachelor’s degree in recreation from Southern Illinois University in Carbondale. She is also a certified lifeguard instructor, trained in CPR, and volunteers on the exhibits committee at the Illinois Parks and Recreation Association. 

Among her accomplishments, she cites facilitating the Franklin Park Aquatic Center through renovation, growing the summer camp to more than 300 kids, and organizing a Street Dance with more than 1,000 attendees.

“There’s such a great foundation in Forest Park, and there also seems like there’s a lot of potential for new programming, new ideas, hearing back from the community and understanding what their needs are,” she said. “I’m looking forward to taking the successes Forest Park has had and implementing my ideas and making them grow, making them better.” 

Her first day will be Sept. 10. She has signed a three-year contract with an annual salary of $92,000. Piekarz will work through October to help with the transition.

John Doss, president of the park district’s board of commissioners, said nearly 30 people applied for the position, and that he and Commissioner Matt Walsh whittled it down to 11 candidates. Then he, Walsh and an outside representative from the West Suburban Special Recreation Association interviewed candidates and narrowed the search down to four.

The park board interviewed those four and decided on Iovinelli. 

“Jackie was just a new, fresh outlook. She had some great ideas, big into team building, had everything we were looking for in the director candidate,” Doss said.