Matt Walsh believes Forest Park’s village council could use a youthful perspective.
The 17-year-old senior at St. Ignatius College Prep has turned in his nominating petition and launched his campaign for commissioner of Forest Park in the April 2011 election.
His bid for a seat on the village board is not a prank. Walsh says he wants to help make Forest Park a better place to live.
“I was kind of nervous how people would take it, that they would kind of laugh it off,” he said. “There are some people who are skeptical, but I’ve actually gotten a lot of support.”
Walsh was born and raised in Forest Park near Circle and Harvard. He attended Betsy Ross Elementary and Forest Park Middle School. At St. Ignatius, he is involved in the Model UN. He also coaches soccer for the Forest Park Youth Soccer Association and is a member of Citizens United in Forest Park.
Walsh, who plans to study public policy or political science in college, began attending village council meetings last year and became very interested in village government. As the election season approached, he thought about running in the election and did some research. He finally decided to enter the race because he thought the town could benefit from having a young voice on the village council.
After all, many of the issues Forest Park faces relate to its youth, he said.
“Being 17 or 18 will help me talk about those topics,” he said.
One of those issues, Walsh said, is that a number of families move away once their kids reach high school age.
“If we can make Forest Park a better place, then we can make people want to stay more,” he said. “I want to make this a town where families can grow and raise their children.”
Walsh also said he’d like to improve the parks throughout the village and encourage more civic involvement among residents.
“I want to build a more unified community,” he said. “I feel like we are getting away from that.”
As for the skeptics, Walsh said he will be very dedicated to researching and learning about all the issues he could face as a board member.
“I know they will question my expertise in zoning and other legal topics, but I will do as much research as I can to be prepared in those topics,” he said.
Walsh also expects that someone will challenge the legitimacy of his nominating petition because of his age. According to the state board of elections, a candidate for local election must be a registered voter. Even though Walsh will not turn 18 until January, he said he has registered to vote and his name is in that database. He also said he has consulted with the state board of elections in regards to his candidacy, and he does plan to fight to get his name on the ballot, should someone challenge his petition.
Walsh plans to attend college close to home so he will still be in Forest Park. He has already been accepted to DePaul University and is looking into Loyola University and the University of Illinois at Chicago as well.
As he approaches his final semester of high school, Walsh is excited about spending his senior year campaigning for the election.
“I’m sure there are going to be some decisions between going to events or parties for senior year,” he said. “I think it’s going to be an exciting time. I’m willing to sacrifice some memories that will go along with senior year because I think there will be some good memories that will go along with the campaign, too.”