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News from President Toni Preckwinkle

Preckwinkle appoints two civic leaders to lead Forest Preserves

Originally published December 15, 2010–Arnold Randall was selected to serve as the new Superintendent of the Cook County Forest Preserve Department. Mary Laraia will serve as Assistant Superintendent of the nation’s largest Forest Preserve district.

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said both Randall and Laraia bring tremendous experience and expertise to the County’s Forest Preserve District.

Randall comes to the Forest Preserve District from his position as Director of the Office of Civic Engagement at the University of Chicago. He was a key part of the Chicago 2016 Olympic Bid Committee’s community outreach team and previously worked as Commissioner of the City of Chicago’s Department of Planning and Development.  Randall served in a number of roles with the Chicago Park District between 1995 and 2007, including park supervisor, area and regional manager, Director of Planning and Development and Director of Legislative and Community Affairs.

Laraia has a long professional record in public policy, philanthropy, the environment and finance. She is known as an innovator in the area of corporate management and has headed community development and compliance functions at three of the nation’s top financial institutions. Laraia has received numerous honors for her work in a variety of executive management positions in both the public and private sector.

Randall and Laraia both served on Preckwinkle’s Forest Preserve policy and transition teams which helped shape the President’s priorities for the Forest Preserve District.

“Arnold and Mary reflect our commitment to bringing in talented, innovative leadership throughout the County. Arnold Randall has a tremendous amount of experience as a public servant through his roles with the Chicago Park District and the City of Chicago. Mary Laraia has a background in urban planning and is an award-winning management executive who has worked for top banking institutions, government as well as nonprofits. I am grateful to both of them for their continued commitment to the Forest Preserves and for their willingness to join our team. ” Preckwinkle said.
“The Forest Preserves are truly a gem of the County,” said Preckwinkle. “As such, the governance of the Forest Preserves must exhibit the highest levels of efficiency, transparency and devotion to the mission.”

In addition to realizing cost savings, identifying opportunities for shared services and streamlining the management of the Forest Preserves, Preckwinkle has placed a priority on reengaging the public in outdoor learning and activities. Preckwinkle has tasked the two with establishing a comprehensive, long-term plan for the Forest Preserves that not only maintains and improves the resources, but also encourages greater public involvement in the future of the District.

“There are major opportunities to increase the County’s engagement with the Forest Preserves. It’s going to be a matter of reaching out to residents, especially our young people, through educational programming, new volunteer opportunities and a major outreach initiative. We’re going to work to give people a greater sense of ownership in the Forest Preserves,” said Randall.

“The Cook County Forest Preserve is the nation’s oldest and largest Forest Preserve district, it’s our job to make it the nation’s best as well,” Laraia said.