CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) – After 25 years here, and 42 total in his career, the Champaign Park District’s executive director announced he will be retiring next spring.

Joe DeLuce said it’s felt “fantastic” to be a part of projects like restoring the Virginia Theatre and building the Martens Center. He’s hoping to end the year with a national Gold Medal Award, which would give Champaign the title of best park district. They’ve won three times over the years, and been a finalist numerous times.

He started his career in 1980 after graduating college and returning to his hometown of Toronto, Ohio. He became one of the first parks and recreations directors the city ever had.

“Here I was, a college graduate, going back to my hometown, getting my first job as a director. We opened a brand new swimming pool, built playgrounds, had a great time. And it really meant a lot to give back,” DeLuce said.

DeLuce said his career has been very rewarding, and he has some advice for whoever will fill his shoes.

“The key is to continue that reputation of being one of the best park districts in the country, and in the state of Illinois. Just [be] someone who really has a passion for parks and recreation because it’s a lot of work, it takes a lot of time and a lot of effort so you really need to be all in,” he said.

He said he’s looking forward to spending time with his family and continuing to enjoy the parks. The district hasn’t chosen a successor yet. They’ll find out whether they won a gold medal in September.

DeLuce is set to officially retire on April 30, 2023.