The Forest Preserve District of DuPage County oversees more than 25,000 acres of land and 60 forest preserves. Hoping to help maintain that land’s natural resources and represent Naperville on the district’s board are three Republicans and one unopposed Democrat.
Republican incumbent Carl Schultz is going door-to-door, trying to win over voters so he can stay another term. He’s the only professional horticulturalist among the group and says his knowledge of the county’s landscape gives him an edge over his opponents. But he hopes fraud allegations against fellow forest preserve staff don’t cast a dark shadow over his campaign.
“There’s always a time when you have some bad actors in a business,” said Schultz. “The issue is how you deal with it once you find it. We took immediate action, did the right thing. We feel it’s a shame but had things put in place to help us catch them.”
But opponent Charlie Schneider says the investigations have already cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars. He says as an executive of an information security organization, he has the know how to turn things around for the district and make their systems more secure. Above all, Schneider wants to make the board more financially accountable.
“The politicians in general have lost touch with the public and are really self serving themselves, not the people that put them in office,” he said. “When I’m elected to the Forest Preserve District, I’m going to treat your money like it’s my own, and I’m not a spend-thrift.”
Long-time Naperville resident Mary Lou Wehrli is no stranger when it comes to serving an executive board. She was on the Naperville Park District board for six years and currently volunteers for the Naperville Parks Foundation. If elected to the forest preserve board, Wehrli would like greater transparency, term limits to be instituted, and a significant reduction in the commissioner’s salaries.
“I’m anxious to see how my first year of service would be spent to see if that kind of money is something that they really deserve or something that has become just very out of whack with what the public would expect of government,” said Wehrli.
On the other side of the isle, Democratic candidate Dennis Clark is busy hitting the campaign trails despite running unopposed in the primary. He says his experience as a member of the Illinois Nature Preserves Commission and as director for the Illinois Prairie Path will help him be an asset to the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County.
He too wants term limits and also wants to revoke a board member’s right to engage in no bid contracts.
“I think we need to eliminate that because some of the board members are actually profiting personally by taking contributions from some of these no contracts,” said Clark. “Some of the contracts up to $500,000.”
One thing all candidates can agree on is that all our open space should be well-maintained for future generations to enjoy.
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