The race is on to lead the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County.
Less than a year into her freshman term on the district commission, lifelong Napervillian Mary Lou Wehrli has tossed her hat into the ring for the board’s top job.
In a press release, Wehrli cited a long string of community affiliations as experiences that have helped prepare her to replace President D. “Dewey” Pierotti Jr., who has announced he will step down next year after two decades at the board helm. She said the time is right, with the agency welcoming a new executive director and kicking off an update to its strategic plan.
Wehrli will face fellow Republican commission member Joe Cantore, who has served on the forest board since 2002, representing District 2, in the March 18 primary. Cantore, who launched his bid for the presidency just after Labor Day, currently has the backing of Pierotti and Dan Cronin, chairman of the DuPage County Board, who are cohosting a fundraiser for the candidate Wednesday night in Downers Grove.
The general election is set for Nov. 4, 2014.
A former Park District commissioner who served on that board during a turbulent period marked by management shake-up, Wehrli was elected a year ago to represent District 5, which includes most of Naperville, on the forest preserve board after unseating longtime Commissioner Carl Schultz in the GOP primary in March 2012. She has owned numerous small businesses and named her past positions as the Naperville park board president and head of the Riverwalk Foundation and her homeowners association, and myriad volunteer connections, as valuable experience — and described herself as “a reliable stable hand.” Wehrli reiterated her vow to decline a Forest Preserve District pension if elected to lead the board.
Along with the option of participating in the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund, commissioners have access to health insurance, covering 15 percent of the premium themselves, and dental coverage, picking up 20 percent of the cost. Commission members and the president also can have cell phones, laptops and/or iPads provided at district expense if they choose, according to human resources staff member Chrissy Dawson.
Working what is considered a part-time position, the commissioners receive a base salary of $53,500. Wehrli’s benefits bring her current total compensation to $74,236. Cantore’s pay and benefits come to $80,710. Pierotti receives $149,577 in yearly salary and benefits.
Wehrli said in the news release she has been a beneficial presence in her first year as a commissioner.
“My experience on the board asking questions, listening and encouraging deliberation has had a positive effect in guiding the decision-making process,” she said.