When Dave Walker retires in January, he can take comfort in knowing his successor likely will know his way around municipal parks.
The four finalists for the position of parks and urban forestry director, which is open for the first time in 25 years, include Verona recreation director Casey Dudley and three others who have extensive experience supervising parks for municipalities in Wisconsin or Illinois.
They are Pat Groom, parks supervisor for the City of Stoughton, Toby Monogue, parks and recreation manager for the City of Portage, and Mark Pentecost, parks and recreation executive director for the Belvidere (Illinois) Township Park District.
Each will interview Tuesday with the city’s Personnel committee, but the city’s recently expanded background check process could take a few weeks before the selected candidate is announced.
The posting, which closed Oct. 10, drew 28 applicants, which staff narrowed to 10 for phone screens and then further narrowed to four.
Dudley has been recreation director in Verona since March 2001, and he attends Parks and Urban Forestry Commission meetings and works closely with Walker on developing parks to meet recreation needs. A 1998 University of Wisconsin-La Crosse graduate in recreation management, his cover letter references his knowledge of existing staff and facilities and touts his leadership skills.
Groom has been with Stoughton since 2016, working under the director of parks and recreation, and spent the previous five years involved in maintenance in parks departments in Monona, Woodbury, Minnesota, and Wausau. A 2011 UW-La Crosse graduate in recreation management, his cover letter notes his experience budgeting for capital improvement projects, overseeing complex projects and taking up initiatives to increase efficiency, as well as his role working directly with the public.
Monogue has been with Portage since 2019, managing a staff of 13 and 18 park facilities.In the 18 years before that, he was the director of parks and recreation in the Town of Mukwonago. A 2000 UW-Whitewater graduate in physical education and coaching, his cover letter touts the diversity of his work experiences, his eye for detail, his service to the community and his complete oversight of all the functions of Portage’s department.
Pentecost has been with Belvidere since 2007, having worked up in various roles for the first 10 years there. A 2000 graduate of Western Illinois University in recreation, parks and tourism administration, his cover letter focuses on customer service, nurturing leadership, respect and accountability.
The position pays from $68,000 to $84,000, according to the job posting, which lists creating budgets and plans for maintenance, operations and growth, along with hiring, training and assisting staff among its long list of duties. Among the requirements are at least three years of supervisory experience in municipal park operations, along with experience and skill with the use of chemicals, grant writing, forestry operations and accounting.
Walker, a 1989 graduate of Verona High School, began working for the city as a part-time summer maintenance staffer in 1990, when the entire department was two full time employees and two summer helpers overseeing 10 parks. He found a permanent position here in 1993, moving up to director in 1997.
Now, Verona has 27 parks and the department has six full time employees and a total of 16 positions, including summer and mowing staff.