With about two weeks remaining until nominating petitions are due for next April’s local election, a couple of fresh faces have emerged as candidates.
All five seats on the village council will be open, including mayor. Positions will also be available on the park board and school board. All candidates must gather at least 28 signatures from registered voters in Forest Park and turn in their petitions between Dec. 13 and 20. The election will take place April 5, 2011.
So far, Mayor Anthony Calderone and Commissioner Marty Tellalian have announced their candidacy for the mayoral seat. The rest of the current commissioners – Rory Hoskins, Michael Curry and Mark Hosty – have all said they will be running for re-election. But the offices will be contested. A number of residents, most of them new to the election scene in Forest Park, have decided to run for a spot on the village council.
As for the District 91 school board, current members Frank Mott, Sean Blaylock and Rafael Rosa have said they will also run again in the spring election. As of Monday night, there is at least one known newcomer also joining the race.
The Review recently caught up with a couple of the new candidates to find out a little more about who they are. (This list does not represent the final list of candidates since petitions can be filed through Dec. 20.)
Steve Johnsen, 51, is a retired Forest Park police officer who served the department for 25 years. He also spent 14 years as a District 91 school board member, including two terms as president.
Johnsen began gathering signatures Friday night to run for village commissioner.
“I enjoy public service,” he said. “I’ve done it my whole adult life. I find it interesting, and it is fun for me to be involved.”
Born and raised in Maywood, Johnsen attended Proviso East High School, followed by Lewis University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal/social justice. He later earned a master’s degree from Lewis in police administration.
Johnsen has lived in Forest Park for 30 years and has four kids ranging in age from 16 to 24. His wife, her parents and her grandparents are all born-and-raised Forest Parkers.
Johnsen, who currently owns a roofing contracting business, said he is leery of candidates who bring a list of issues so early in the game.
“Elected officials are administrators,” he said. “That’s where you find your best people, the ones who can handle the business of the village. … You want confident leadership and experience.”
Jon Kubricht, 32, owns a few small businesses based in Chicago that involve distributing imported beads and jewelry from Asia and Eastern Europe. He also owns some retail and commercial space in Forest Park, as well as two-flat apartment buildings in the village.
As such, he said he holds “a pretty vested interest in seeing property values rebound and building departments stabilized” in Forest Park.
He plans to run for commissioner because he has seen “a lot of inefficiency and misdirection at village hall.”
“I want to give it a shot and correct some of that,” he said. “I come at stuff with a fairly decent understanding of economics and budgets – and how to spend the money you have wisely.”
Kubricht grew up in Oak Park and later attended Wheaton College, where he was elected president of his class and earned a bachelor’s degree in business and economics. He has lived in Forest Park the past nine years.
Thirty-seven-year-old Chris Harris, a Forest Park resident for 11 years, worked in a corporate job until he branched out and started his own media and marketing company. As a graduate of Western Illinois University with a bachelor’s degree in communications, Harris is currently taking classes at Northwestern University for a master’s degree in political science.
Harris, who grew up in the Schaumburg-Roselle area, will be vying for a seat as commissioner.
“I have a love for Forest Park and want to see it ushered to the next decade in a responsible way,” Harris said.
He’d like to keep a watchful eye on city spending, particularly in the form of pension plans.
“The noticeable hole I see is that the pension system is completely out of whack,” he said. “It’s an archaic system that I don’t think can sustain itself.”
He is also calling for more transparency from village government and would like to involve the community more in the decision-making process.
“To me, that’s civic engagement between people at village hall and the citizens,” he said.
Harris also runs a couple of different annual charity fundraisers in the area, including a softball tournament in Forest Park that benefits the Wounded Warrior Project.
As an attorney with the Cook County Public Defenders Law Office, Eric Connor, 60, believes his strong suit in running for commissioner is being able to understand both sides of an argument before choosing the best one.
“I’m someone, by practice as a public defender, who seeks a solution and consensus,” he said. “It’s listening to people, coming to an opinion and being able to argue it, but also being flexible and able to resolve issues, too.”
Connor, a Forest Park resident for about 15 years, has served on the Forest Park Youth Commission since May 2004 and volunteers with his wife at the Kiwanis Club. He also sits on the board of directors of the Maywood Fine Arts Association, a charitable organization that serves surrounding communities in children’s arts education.
“I’m a very strong believer in providing opportunities for the youth and directing them to be good, civic-minded individuals,” he said.
Connor was born in Columbus, Ohio but grew up in Chicago’s South Side neighborhood of Beverly Hills. He graduated from Loyola University with a bachelor’s degree in economics in 1973 and later John Marshall Law School with a juris doctorate in 1977. He has five children, including a son who attends Forest Park Middle School. He is also a grandfather to four.
John Tricoci Jr.
As a father of three, John Tricoci Jr. is running in the upcoming election for a spot on the District 91 school board.
Tricoci, 39, has lived in Forest Park his whole life. He attended Garfield Elementary School, Forest Park Middle School, Nazareth Academy and St. Joseph’s High School. His kids – a stepdaughter in high school and twins in third grade at Grant White – are third generation Forest Park students.
“With my kids being in there, I have a lot more interest in the schools,” he said. “I have nothing bad to say about anybody on the board, I just want to be more involved because of my children.”
Tricoci, who works as a purchasing agent for an electrical contractor, has also coached little league baseball and volunteered as a Cub Scouts leader.
Tricoci’s father had been a District 91 school board member for 20 years.