Chris Cioroianu never intended to spend his career taking care of some of the Region’s most beautiful parks, but when his initial job plan left him wanting a change in scenery, the decision to make the move was a walk in the park.
Cioroianu was born and raised in the Region and began working with the Lake County Parks Department when he was 16. He had no intention of sticking with the department after high school, however, and he attended Purdue University Northwest to study business marketing.
After completing his degree, Cioroianu accepted a position that he thought would be a good fit for his first job out of college. There was only one issue—the job was not a good fit after all.
Cioroianu decided to look for other places to work but realized he needed a job in the meantime. He called his boss from the parks department in hopes of securing a temporary job while he explored his options. He accepted a job as an assistant manager at Lemon Lake County Park.
“My thought was, ‘Okay, I'm going to take that job until I find the job that's going to be my career,’” Cioroianu said. “36 years later, I'm still here. This one just worked out.”
Cioroianu spent two years managing Lemon Lake County Park before moving into a position at Turkey Creek Golf Course, where he worked for 24 years. He has spent the last 10 years in his current position as the superintendent of park operations.
“I've never thought of myself as a park person or a golf course person. I just didn't know what I wanted to do, and it kind of fell into my lap,” Cioroianu said. “Fortunately, there were those within the parks department that saw things in me and thought I could do it. I think the fear of not wanting to let them down is why I've been so successful. I didn't want to disappoint them because they showed a lot of faith in me.”
Though he didn’t realize it at the beginning of his career, Cioroianu feels he does his best work in the field.
“I've been out in the field more than behind the desk, and that's where I like to be,” Cioroianu said. “I have always said that my job is to try to make the jobs of my supervisors and managers at the different park sites easier. I spend a lot of time meeting with managers, listening to their concerns, and trying to address those and make their lives easier so we can put out a product that we're proud of and that the public wants to come and visit.”
Cioroianu’s passion for people and parks has left a lasting impression on both employees and guests. As he prepares for his retirement on June 1, he hopes he can instill the same sense of pride and determination in his employees as his supervisors did for him when he began his career.
“I am always just trying to do what was done for me. I want to give people an opportunity to grow. Watching those people succeed is the most fulfilling thing for me,” Cioroianu said.
Post-retirement, Cioroianu hopes to travel around the country with his wife to visit family, spend time with his grandchildren, and read when he gets the chance. He also hopes to sleep—though he doesn’t anticipate that happening very often.
“I've just been trained to get up early. I say I want to sleep in, but I don't know that that'll ever happen,” Cioroianu said.
Though he won’t be mentoring people in the same way that he has been for 43 years with the parks department, Cioroianu hopes to continue to be a light in his community for many years to come, no matter what adventures he finds post-retirement.