Four open trustee seats. 12 people running. Two Forest Park men, on opposing slates and with very different visions for the township.

This is what this April’s election for the Proviso Township Board of Trustees is looking like for Forest Park voters.

The two men, Forest Park Commissioner Tim Gillian and Forest Park police official and Dist. 91 school board member Steve Johnsen both
hope to bring some Forest Park flavor into a
board dominated by other towns, politics and

In addition to the four trustee seats, the supervisor, clerk and assessor positions are open, as well as the collector spot.  But only the four trustees and the supervisor have voting positions in the township.

 Gillian, a current Forest Park commissioner, is an incumbent on the board and already has four years as trustee under his belt.

“Initially I ran because I saw there was a real need in the township for the same kind of dynamics that I think I bring to Forest Park,” Gillian said. “There is an opportunity to do some good things there. 

For Gillian, the main problem for the township is a lack of direction.

“Honestly we need some good leadership and a board that shares the common vision of making Proviso Township accessible to all residents of the township,” he said. “I have an issue with the current supervisor and the leadership that has either been provided or not provided.”

Johnsen is running on the ticket with the incumbent township supervisor, Kathy Ryan and said he is running on an “Integrity Ticket.”

“Kathy Ryan is the first elected supervisor outside of Melrose Park since 1969,” Johnsen said. “However Kathy has been battling uphill for the last four years. She is in a difficult position, nobody is allowing her to do her job, that is why it appears that there is no leadership there.  And Tim Gillian supports the policies of [Melrose Park Mayor] Ron Serpico.”

Johnsen said he is running to break up any controversial, politically connected tickets and to bring back good government. “We have named ourselves the Integrity Party because we wanted to convey the message that we are all good government people,” Johnsen said.

“Proviso Township is a little known government that we pay taxes to, that since 1969 has been dominated by Melrose Park,” Johnsen said.  “The key here is Ron Serpico and Ron Serpico is pretty much infiltrating, not only Proviso Township, but all the other suburbs as well.”

Johnsen said he has seen the influence of Serpico and his party in Forest Park and thus decided to take action and align himself with Riverside-based Cook County Commissioner Tony Peraica. 

Examples of this influence, Johnsen said, are “unwanted or unneeded public works projects designed to spend a lot of money.”

Gillian, whose slate is supported by several mayors, said he takes exception to claims of political nepotism and to any claims his slate is heavily influenced by Serpico.

“First of all, while Ron Serpico was one of seven mayors who support the slate I am involved with, Gillian said. Calling it “lousy politics,” Gillian said the claims are a result of a lack of issues to run on.

“The fact is this,” Gillian said. “The township doesn’t, other than a few things like auditors, have need for contractors; we don’t have property, don’t have roads or a water system.  This is a feeble attempt on their part to try and create some controversy.”

Regardless of the alleged political connections, should he be elected, Johnsen said, he plans to “consolidate the properties that the township owns or should own.

“Proviso has three properties ” an office in Broadview and an office in Melrose Park that are rentals, in addition to the transportation offices in Bellwood. It occurs to me that an incredible amount of money is being wasted on the rental of properties,” Johnsen said. “The lease in Broadview is $4,000 a month for 1,800 feet. An outrageous price for a property in very poor condition.”

The township receives money from property taxes.

“In terms of our tax bill, it is really 2.5 percent of our property bill,” Johnsen said. “It is a fairly insignificant amount, however, considering the size of Proviso, it is a pretty significant amount of money, around $10 – $15 million.”

Of this money, he said, 60 percent goes to the Proviso Mental Health Commission.

“One of the most important tasks of a trustee is oversight of the Mental Health Commission because that is where most of the money is spent,” Johnsen said. “The 40 percent of your taxes that is going to Proviso Township, that is being spent on services for seniors.

For Gillian, who dismisses talk of nepotism, the township’s goal should be to use the money they receive to provide more services to its residents, especially to its seniors.

“My goal in the next four years would be to potentially augment the transportation system [Forest Park] provides to senior citizens,” he said.  “Given that all the villages in Proviso are strapped for cash, this is another government entity that has some cash and we should spread it out around the towns.”

Proviso Township is a separate entity from the Proviso Township High School District 209.  In fact, it covers different towns from the high school. The others running on Gillian’s slate are Mari Herrell, running for supervisor and currently the executive director of Memorial Park District; Grady Rivers, Jr., currently president of School District 89 and running for clerk; Michael A. Corrigan, of LaGrange Park, the incumbent assessor, who runs an insurance and investment firm; and F. Joyce Lewis, for collector.

With them, and running for the trustee positions, are Don Sloan, a former member of board, Anthony Williams, from Melrose Park and Jesse Martinez, a member of the board in Stone Park.

“This was the group I felt had the most to bring to the table and it is where I want to be,” Gillian said. “What we did is we tried very hard with the cooperation of the mayors that have chosen to support us, to get a large cross section from each of the communities.”

On Steve Johnsen’s ticket are Kathy Ryan for supervisor, Joyce Ann Eaker for clerk, Ralph W. Conner for assessor and Donna M. Contraveos for collector.

For the trustee positions, with Johnsen, are Catherine A. Colgrass-Edwards, Michael L. Sheehan and William J. Daugherty, Jr.

“The only thing I can do is I can run for the township,” Johnsen said. “For the Forest Park people we have to take baby steps, we have to stop them from taking over the township, in two years we have to get good candidates elected in Forest Park. You are either a good government person who is altruistic and really has a desire to serve the community or you are a profiteer where you serve yourself.”