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URBANA — Lorrie Pearson, the city of Urbana’s community development services director, has been named the new executive director of the Champaign County Forest Preserve.

Pearson will take over for current Executive Director Mary Ellen Wuellner on Sept. 27, she said. Wuellner is retiring after 14 years with the forest preserve district.

Pearson’s last day on the job with Urbana was Tuesday. The city council has named Sheila Dodd, the city’s grants manager, to serve as interim director of the community development services department.

Pearson, 47, of Champaign worked for Urbana for more than six years and had served as community development services director since October 2019. She previously was deputy director for that department and planning and zoning manager for the city.

Before coming to work for Urbana, Pearson held several other positions in planning, including serving as planning and zoning administrator for the city of Evanston, land development manager for the city of Champaign, senior site planner for Arlington County, Va., planner for the city of Alexandria, Va., and environmental planner for the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments.

She holds a bachelor’s degree from Cornell College and a master’s degree from the University of Illinois.

Pearson was the unanimous choice of the forest preserve district’s board of commissioners, according to an announcement from the district.

“The board of commissioners is thrilled to have identified such an outstanding professional who will continue the legacy of leadership for the district,” said board President Bill Goodman.

Pearson said she is honored to serve as the next executive director for the forest preserve district and continue the progress Wuellner has made.

For her, a change of career focus from planning to preservation goes back to why she started in the planning field to begin with.

“I started out as a planner and got into planning because I saw that there must be a different way to build cities so we could actually preserve some of their pristine lands that weren’t being preserved,” she said.

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