The Isla Vista Recreation and Park District (IVRPD) will be under new management in the months to come, as General Manager Derek Johnson prepares to assume a new position under the Santa Barbara County Chief Executive Office.

The new general manager, who has not yet been hired, will begin work on March 25. With the help of a hired consultant, the IVRPD will begin interviewing candidates to replace Johnson in February.

Johnson, who has worked as General Manager for the IVRPD since 1996, announced his decision to the board on Jan. 9. He said he will work as a project manager for the County Executive Office’s comprehensive planning division.

Pegeen Soutar, a former IVRPD director, said she helped hire Johnson and thinks the board will have a difficult time replacing him.

“If you look at the parks and the tremendous amount of park improvements that have been done in the last 10 or 11 years, for me that is proof of how knowledgeable he is and how good he is at his job,” Soutar said. “They’re going to be big shoes to fill.”

Johnson started working at the IVRPD as a student in 1988. Since then, he said, he has learned numerous skills that will help him in his new job.

“I’m going to be a project manager, overseeing some community planning processes and assisting with various other comprehensive planning tasks,” Johnson said. “I think the skills and experiences I’ve had will be helpful.”

IVRPD Director Bryan Brown said he is happy for Johnson, but he thinks it will be hard to see him leave.

“It’s a bummer,” Brown said. “I think it’s a loss for us. He did a lot of work and he was very knowledgeable. I can understand why he wants to move on, but he’s going to be very tough to replace. He brought a lot of positive elements to the district.”

Johnson said the IVRPD Board of Directors hired a consultant to help it find a new general manager. The board’s first meeting with the consultant is scheduled for Feb. 2.

“They’re going to use an interview process that will be two or three stages,” Johnson said. “The consultant will assist them with getting ads out in the right places, receiving and reviewing r