Mundelein man celebrates 40 years on job
Mundelein Parks Superintendent Jerry Cleaveland recalls learning to make skating rinks early in his career as among his most humorous memories. | Joe Cyganowski~For Sun-Times Media
VOCATION: Superintendent of Parks
WORDS TO LIVE BY: “I’m happy and comfortable in Mundelein. It’s a great community.”
Updated: November 7, 2012 11:12AM
MUNDELEIN — When he was 20 years old, Mundelein native Jerry Cleaveland found work mowing the lawns and doing various jobs for the Mundelein Park and Recreation District.
Cleaveland enjoyed the work, and he ended up finding something much more — a lifelong career. October marks Cleaveland’s 40th anniversary with the park district.
“When I started here that summer, we were hired to cut grass and do whatever was needed to be done in the parks — there were only 13 or so at that time,” Cleaveland said. “Up until that point, I’d worked in a full-service gas station. So I’d learned some mechanics. Most of the district’s equipment was in disrepair, so I got it up and running.”
Since those early days, Mundelein Park District has grown, with many new neighborhoods, now hosting more than 785 acres, and Cleaveland, now superintendent of parks, still works hard to keep everything running smoothly.
When Cleaveland first started, the park district maintenance staff had only two full-time members. Now, he oversees the maintenance and development of 33 parks and manages a staff of 12 full-time employees.
Cleaveland enjoyed working with his hands, and his favorite on-the-job responsibilities included construction and landscaping. As the park district grew, Cleaveland helped with the development of most of the new park sites, building playgrounds, roads, parking lots and shelters. He said that part of why he enjoys his work so much is that he continues to learn, the work is always interesting and he works with great people.
One of his more memorable experiences was early in his career. Carp had overpopulated Diamond Lake, and to combat this issue, the IDNR and other governing bodies conducted a fish kill. Cleaveland remembers that the park district was responsible for the clean up. He said that during the first few days after the kill, removing the dead fish wasn’t so bad, but after a couple of weeks, picking up fish in hard to reach areas of the lake got pretty ugly, and the smell was overwhelming.
Things haven’t always been quite so fishy for Cleaveland. Among his favorite memories is his first winter of learning how to make ice rinks.
“They had rinks when I was a kid here and I spent a lot of time skating on them, but had no idea about the work involved to make them,” Cleaveland said. “I learned that opening a fire hydrant with a three-inch hose aimed at a tennis court to flood it was not the right way. It made for some very wet and cold experiences for me and my co-workers.”
Cleaveland said he plans to continue his work with the park district.
“I’m happy and comfortable in Mundelein,” he said. “It’s a great community.”