It has been an invigorating week in Forest Park. There were actively contested elections on four fronts — mayor, village council, elementary and high school board. As we’ve said across this election season, the quality of the candidates for these positions was outstanding. And while no one likely got all their first choices, we see voters who chose a good blend of newcomers and incumbents, voters who chose increased energy to get after problems that are real in village government and both school districts.
Here’s what else we saw that bodes exceptionally well for our village: Especially in District 91 elementary, candidates who fell short of election responded with grace, applause for the winners and pledges of continued involvement. This needs to be the new Forest Park model. Put yourself and your ideas forward, compete with vigor and respect, and, win or lose, stay active in something you clearly have passion for. The corresponding side must be that those who won must enthusiastically involve those who came up short. Committee assignments, special projects, acknowledgments of service should all be offered and soon.
Mayor-elect Rory Hoskins showed that same grace in victory. We hope that a priority in his administration will be to show the servant leadership he described in campaigning and to actively build the bench of potential leaders in our village. Let people shine in sustainability, diversity, zoning, recreation, transportation. Create a committee with diverse ideas to drive the future of the Altenheim property. Whether through the Chamber of Commerce or at village hall, build a powerhouse economic development committee. Consider some sort of financial oversight commission to assess village finances.
Forest Park has bright, talented people. Some moved here three years ago. Some count their presence in generations. Bring them in. This town needs more passionate advocates who care about issues, not personalities.
In the one race that required a unanimous vote, Forest Parkers led the way in re-electing the Proviso Together slate for the District 209 high school district. Theresa Kelly, Claudia Medina and Ned Wagner have done near-miraculous work in beginning to reset the narrative of our public high schools. And while, significantly, the slate won in towns across Proviso, the margin in Forest Park was gigantic.
It is plain that the energy unleashed four years ago with the Forest Park-rooted Proviso Together’s unlikely win has also sparked a political movement in town. It explains the determined grassroots effort on video gaming. It explains the sheer number of candidates and the strength of those candidates in the spring elections. And it comes just in time.
Forest Park is a wonderful town. Blessed with the perfect location, an array of housing, a base of entrepreneurs, diversity measured by race, age, income, orientation, schools on the make, and a tradition of welcoming connection, Forest Park has felt a bit off the rails of late.
Time to reset, to grab problems directly, to celebrate our virtues, to be our best selves.