Kelli Bruns, Peninsula State Park Superintendent since September of 2011, has resigned.
Bruns is taking a position with the Minnesota Division of Parks and Trails at Fort Snelling in the Twin Cities area. She expects to leave after the holidays. Erin Brown, superintendent of Potawatomi State Park in Sturgeon Bay, will step in to offer assistance at Peninsula State Park during the search for a new superintendent. Brown served as interim Superintendent at Peninsula in 2011, and as assistant superintendent from September of 2011 until November of 2015.
Bruns said the decision was made for personal reasons.
“I’m one of those people always looking for new challenges and new adventures,” she said. “I have a lot of family and friends in the Twin Cities area. This was a chance to try some new things. I have two smaller children at an age when you kind of have to make a decision.”
Brian Hefty, Deputy Bureau Director of the Wisconsin State Parks, said the process to replace Bruns is already underway.
“Peninsula State Park is a high priority position to fill,” he said. When longtime superintendent Tom Blackwood retired at the end of 2009, it took almost two years for the department to hire a permanent replacement. Hefty said he aims to fill the position immediately this time, though the position requires a wide range of skills.
“It requires someone with good customer focus, someone who is service orientated,” he said. “They need to be able to manage people and be able to develop staff. There is a large staff at peninsula. And they need good organization and planning skills and must be able to foster good relationships both internally and externally with the local community.”
Hefty does not expect Bruns’s resignation to impact the long-delayed work on the master plan for Door County’s five state parks.
Bruns called her decision bittersweet.
“I love Peninsula and Wisconsin state parks, but we have a lot of parks across the United States,” she said. “This offers a new challenge and new adventure for myself and career, but also new opportunities for my family. This is definitely more of a personal than job-related decision.”
Fort Snelling is a historic and an urban recreation park with more than 3,000 acres that attracts about 800,000 visitors each year from the Twin Cities area.
Bruns said she is proud of what has been accomplished at Peninsula during her tenure, including the improvements to Nicolet Beach, the boat launch, facilities, the new short course at the golf course, and campground improvements. Undoubtedly, the deconstruction of Eagle Tower was the most controversial moment of her tenure.
“I’ve had a lot of interesting things in five years,” she said. “It’s a very busy property. Whoever follows in my footsteps will have to multitask well and manage the high number of days of use. It’s such an incredible property that always provides for new ideas and new leadership, so it’s an exciting opportunity for other people here who are looking to grow.”
Her replacement also steps into budget uncertainty. State parks are going through the aches and pains of becoming a self-funded system, searching for new ways to create revenue from fees, concessions, and partnerships, and struggling to fill ranger positions.