Three Forest Parkers are contesting two seats, up for election April 4, on the town’s Park District Board of Commissioners.
Two incumbents, Roy Sansone and Cathleen McDermott, and newcomer Andrew Johnson all want a spot on the village’s five-member policy-making board, six-year terms, in the midst of the park district’s multimillion-dollar redevelopment project at the old Roos factory site, Circle Avenue and Harrison Street.
Sansone and McDermott have served previously, and both were re-elected in 2011. McDermott was also on the board for several years in the 1990s. Sansone has been a commissioner for over a decade. Johnson has never run for office.
The Review sent a questionnaire to each of the candidates. Sansone declined to answer each question individually, instead providing a statement.
The 29-year-old Johnson grew up in Countryside but has lived in Forest Park for the last nine years. A vice president at Bridgeview Power, a battery distributor, he told the Review he is at “a point in my career that I am able to start giving back to the town that has given me so much.
“I am running because Forest Park can do better, a new voice with a different perspective and new ideas would only build on the foundation we have,” Johnson wrote. “I feel like I have the ability to see things differently and be more of a liaison to the public.”
Johnson mentioned the park district’s aquatic center as a “gem” for the village and also highlighted the completion of the Roos redevelopment as a top priority. He also said communication and technology at the park district could be improved, pointing out that online registration should have happened years ago and floating the idea of automatic text messaging for urgent info, like class cancellations.
“A lot of times people don’t even realize there is a better, faster, more cost-effective way to do business until they are forced to use it,” Johnson wrote. “You get stuck in a business-as-usual routine.”
Johnson also gave his support for the July 4 fireworks, which are slated to come back this summer after a hiatus, calling it a “long-standing, well-loved Forest Park tradition.”
Sansone also backed the return of the fireworks and said the board will “try to get the best bang for our buck.” He is a lifelong Forest Parker, a graduate of Proviso East High School, served four years as a Forest Park auxiliary police officer, and has been active in the community coaching youth sports.
He offered an extensive list of accomplishments as park commissioner, including the soccer field installation and resurfacing, creating the skate park, renovating the park district’s main building, and the Roos property redevelopment, among others.
“We’ve produced the best possible recreational opportunities for our residents,” he wrote.
Explaining his motivations for running again, Sansone mentioned getting online registration up and running, updating the aquatic center, and finishing the Roos project as priorities.
McDermott wrote that the ongoing Roos property redevelopment was the accomplishment she was proudest of as an incumbent commissioner and said it will help expand the district’s programming. She also is still working to get a teen space included in the site’s building plans.
“While the gym will serve as a multipurpose facility, I don’t believe every tween/teen will be interested in a sports activity,” McDermott wrote. “I’m looking to carve out a space they can call their own, a place where they can unwind after school, do homework, relax.”
Echoing Johnson, she also mentioned communication and social media as an area for improvement.
McDermott, like Sansone and Johnson, supports the return of the fireworks show and said the park district is working with the village’s police and fire departments to handle safety and crowd-control concerns.
“Yes, it is a lot of money for a single event,” McDermott wrote. “However, it is probably the most popular event offered by The Park.”
As reported by the Review in February, the park district has budgeted $20,000 for the July 4 festivities.