Meet Our Team

Executive Leadership Team
Elizabeth Kessler, MBA, CPRE
– Executive Director
John Kremer, CPRP – Director of Operations, Planning & Public Safety
Andy Dylak – Director of Finance & Administration
Ed Collins – Director of Land Preservation & Natural Resources
Wendy Kummerer, CPRP – Director of Marketing & Education

Leadership Team
Sara Denham – Wildlife Resource Center Manager
Jean Gerstbrein – Accounting Manager
Jenny Heider, CPRP – Human Resources Manager
Laura King, CPRP – Chief of Police
Becky Lambert – Education Services Manager
Caitlynn Martinez-McWhorter, CPRP – Marketing Manager
Amy Peters – Planning & Development Manager
Gabriel Powers – Conservation Ecology Manager 
Val Siler, CPRP – Land Preservation Manager
Perry Weborg – Operations Manager

To reach members of our Leadership Team, please call 815-338-6223.

View our Organizational Chart

Divisions
Administration & Division
The Administration & Finance division effectively manages the District’s financial activity and provides support services to the District’s operating departments through Finance and Accounting, Human Resources Management, Information Technology Services, Purchasing and Risk Management. In addition, the department performs financial analysis, maintains the general ledger, and manages the District’s investments and fixed assets.

Land Preservation & Natural Resources Division
The Land Preservation and Natural Resources Division primary focus is the protection, inventory and management of natural and cultural resources of county-wide significance. Data is used to inform and guide management efforts and advance scientific discovery. Management of natural resources involves restoring natural ecological process, structure and composition to District lands. The Farm Program, Hunting Program, Wildlife Resource Center and Cultural Archives Program are also managed by the Land Preservation and Natural Resources Division. Activities include: planning and conducting prescription burning; removal of invasive species, and artificial drainage modifications to restore site hydrology; bank stabilization, stream re-meandering and other aspects of riparian restoration; and the regulation of game fish and animal harvest through the District’s recreational fishing and hunting program.

Land Preservation and Acquisition section possesses a unique familiarity with the landscape of McHenry County. This enables the Division to play a valuable role in the development of a long-term land protection efforts to preserve the county’s natural lands. The Division updates the McHenry County Natural Areas Inventory and Oak Ecosystem Inventory Reports that aid in identifying the most critical parcels worthy of consideration for long term protection county-wide.
 
The Database and Cartographic Resources section provides access to specific natural resource related information, both detailed and summary, in an organized, useable and concise manner, in tabular, graphical, visual or cartographic format. Over 35 years of scientific inventory and monitoring information has been digitized in a user-friendly, easily-queried database format. Since 2003, GIS resources augment existing database conversion with detailed digital maps. Over 3,900 biological inventories have been digitally converted, as well as ongoing data collected in the field on all major species groups, not limited to, breeding birds, reptiles and amphibians, small mammals, fresh water mussels, fish, butterflies and plants.
 
The Plant Ecology section implements propagation, collection and installation of native plant species; monitors all endangered or threatened plant populations located on District lands; monitors long-term vegetation studies to track the effects of ecological management and restoration efforts; assess all new land acquisitions for baseline vegetative inventories; and oversees the operation  of the District's Native Plant Nursery and Seed Processing Building.
 
The Wildlife Ecology section works to improve the biological health of Conservation District lands, monitors and implements critical scientific inventories of existing wildlife resources, including breeding birds, herps, freshwater mussels, fish, and butterflies. In addition, staff monitors endangered and threatened wildlife species on District lands and works to help species in greatest need of conservation by developing plans for re-introduction, population supplementation and management recommendations.

The Research Field Station is housed within Lost Valley Visitor Center and is responsible for oversight of the District Habitat Technicians, scientific research on District lands, and public education related to ecological restoration as well as the Weekend of Restoration program. In addition, staff coordinates curation of scientific specimens, and management of the District’ s natural resource and cartographic archives. In addition, staff the Research Field Station Ecologist is responsible for the ongoing restoration management of over 4,000 acres of District lands in Region 1, including Glacial Park.

Archives and Research Library
The RFS maintains and enlarges the research library and District land use history archives in the Lost Valley Visitor Center. The archives and library are available to all District staff and the public upon request.



The Wildlife Resource Center's primary tasks are environmental education, captive rearing and reintroduction of selected wildlife species, and rehabilitation of species of conservation concern. Staff also provides environmental education programming to schools, community groups and the public utilizing various live animals as an integral part of the program. Staff provides assistance to the public on a variety of wildlife related inquiries. The wildlife reintroduction projects currently encompass the Illinois state endangered Blanding’s turtle and a species of conservation concern, the smooth green snake.

Marketing & Education Division
The Marketing & Communications Department serves to promote the District’s mission, foster a positive public image, encourage a greater appreciation for the natural world, promote environmental stewardship, generate awareness for programs and special events, and educate the public on environmental concerns and outdoor opportunities. The Marketing & Communications Department relies on comprehensive marketing and promotional strategies which include publishing the quarterly magazine Landscapes, developing site brochures, banners, press releases, advertisements, special event coordination and community outreach, and a growing presence on multiple social media platforms. In addition, the department oversees the recruitment and orientation of the Volunteer Program that offers 27 different volunteer areas that connect people to the District’s mission and actively engage them in being ambassadors for the District.

Education Services  develops and delivers natural and cultural history programs for the general public, community organizations, and schools; provides self-directed educational materials; and manages two educational facilities. The Department’s educational programs support the District’s mission by facilitating interactions in and with the natural world, increasing understanding of the overall significance of the county’s natural and cultural resources, building awareness and encouraging public involvement in the solution of environmental problems.

Operations, Planning & Public Safety Division
The Operations Department maintains the District's infrastructure, trails, roads, bridges, parking lots, walkways, entrance gates, and all District vehicles and equipment. Ranger staff maintain thirty five sites and miles of trail open to the public to ensure visitors have a safe and enjoyable visit. Facilities staff maintain and repair structures, buildings, and shelters, including electrical, plumbing, and HVAC systems. The District's mechanics maintain all District vehicles and equipment in a manner that provides for continued long-term usability. Staff in this department also perform some construction, renovations or building demolitions as needed by the District. 

The Planning & Development Department is responsible for the planning, designing, and implementation of District infrastructure, while protecting the natural and cultural features of McHenry County. The Department prepares and executes all Site Improvement Plans and Master Plans that guide the logical development, use, management and acquisition of District lands and resources. Each plan presents a thorough inventory and analysis of pertinent data relating to regional and site conditions, resources and programs as well as implementation strategies for physical development and resource management. The Planning Department manages these capital improvement projects from beginning phases: designing, engineering; cost estimating; permitting, bidding and prioritizing; to final phases: directly overseeing all aspects of construction.

The Police Department protects and serves the District’s site users along with protecting any and all natural resources, property and infrastructure that the District owns or manages. Having a frequent and highly visible police presence is an absolute necessity in deterring undesirable and criminal behavior from sites, trails, and natural areas. The public’s use of the District’s sites by individuals of all ages, genders, and abilities, and families with young children, at all hours of the day, is a testament to both the need for and the effectiveness of the District’s Police Department. They also have an active role in education and interaction with site users and serve as ambassadors for the District. They are integral to the success of many District programs, and are involved in a wide array of seasonal activities (hunting, bicycling, snowmobiling, equestrian activities, fishing, paddling, and hiking).  Similar to the McHenry County Sheriff’s Deputies or Municipal Police Officers, the District’s Police Officers are fully sworn law enforcement officers, with the power to make a criminal arrest under Illinois state law and a duty to protect and serve residents of McHenry County. District police officers place a stronger emphasis on compliance rather than sanctions. The District’s Police Department is well integrated with the McHenry County Sheriff’s Office, as well as other municipal departments and regional emergency response agencies. The Department provides outside assistance and expertise to other departments when requested and serves on the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) Team and McHenry County Gang Task Force. This integration, collaboration, and cooperation ensures the most efficient use of tax-payer resources.