Believe it or not, there is already some good news regarding the local elections in April. Mind you, I’m not endorsing any candidates just yet, but the announcement that John Plepel and Rory Hoskins want to serve as commissioners is good news, regardless of their politics.

What’s noteworthy here is that both men represent the type of residents that any community is hoping to attract. They are young, educated professionals taking an interest in the future of the community they now call home.

Before Hoskins threw his hat into the ring, he took care of a little business by purchasing a house in Forest Park. Hoskins’ father, who was one of the pioneer African-American attorneys in Galveston, Texas, was defeated in a city council election, in 1969, partly due to criticism that he was not a homeowner. Hoskins has made sure he can’t be criticized on the same basis.

Before he bought his new home, Hoskins was renting in Forest Park for seven years. He and his wife Monique found themselves on a very neighborly block. In fact, several neighbors later encouraged Hoskins to run for office. The Hoskins became completely sold on Forest Park when their three children reported they liked the local school.

Hoskins is a coach and board member for the Forest Park Youth Soccer Association. He’s also been appointed to serve on the village’s Traffic and Safety Commission. As for his background, the 35 year-old Hoskins obtained his MSW from Loyola University and has worked for social service organizations in Chicago. At present, he is a tax specialist for a large investment firm and Monique teaches Spanish at Proviso West.

Plepel, like Hoskins, is not a dyed in the wool Forest Parker. He is a “virtual” Forest Parker, having grown up with his wife, Chanda, in the section of South Oak Park that is encompassed by St. Bernardine’s parish. Chanda attended St. Bernardine’s School and the couple was later married in the church.

Plepel, 31, moved to Forest Park in 1999. The house he bought was built in 1916 and Plepel liked the vintage character of his block. It also had a friendly feel, with neighbors getting to know each other and young families renovating their houses. When a condo project was proposed for the block, Plepel joined the neighbors that were against it.

Plepel graduated from UIC with degrees in finance and economics and currently works in commercial real estate. He realizes that serving as commissioner will be a huge time commitment that will keep him away from his wife and young son. He also knows the position will leave him vulnerable to criticism but he is willing to do whatever the job demands.

There were times when Forest Park might lose families like the Hoskins and the Plepels. We’ve since become a town where young families want to put down roots. It is vital to our community that relative “newcomers” want to participate in government. For too long, our leadership has not reflected the demographics and changing attitudes of our community.

John Rice is a columnist/novelist who has seen his family thrive in Forest Park. He has published two books set in the village: The Ghost of Cleopatra and The Doll with the Sad Face.