John Doss, former village public works chief and current park district president, will officially kick off his mayoral campaign on Aug. 28 at 1 p.m. at Doc Ryan’s bar, 7432 Madison St.
While Doss confirmed his intention to run back in late May, his campaign has been fairly quiet until now. He is currently the only candidate challenging incumbent mayor Rory Hoskins, who had his own campaign kickoff in June. Candidates can begin circulating nominating petitions in mid-September and filing deadlines are set for early December, so there is still time for other candidates to join the field.
Doss said he isn’t running as part of a slate – though he said he intends to support candidates in other races. He argued that his record at the village and at the park district, as well as his personal integrity, made him well-suited to be mayor. Doss said that, if elected, his major priorities would be to improve public safety, especially around the Madison Street corridor, figure out ways to bring in more businesses and focus on redeveloping the village-owned portion of the Altenheim retirement community property and recently vacated U.S. Army Reserve property at 7402 Roosevelt Rd.
Doss worked for the Department of Public Works between 1985 and 2021, not counting the years he worked part-time in high school. He was named public works chief in 2008. He was elected park commissioner in 2007.
According to the Illinois State Board of Elections records, Doss officially established his campaign committee on July 22.
Doss said that, now that he’s retired, running for mayor was a natural next step.
“It’s always been something I wanted to do, since I started my career for the village,” he said. “I want a seat at the table, I want to help things here, and I’m excited at the opportunity.”
Doss said his campaign slogan is “Put the Park back in Forest Park” because he wanted to bring some of the things that worked well at the park district, which he described as the “crown jewel of Forest Park,” to the village government. For example, he said, the park district was able to get grants without lobbyists, and he saw no reason why the village couldn’t do the same.
His other major priority is to improve public safety and “make Forest Park a safe place to shop, dine and live.” When asked to elaborate, Doss said that installing more security cameras “is a good start,” but other than that, he believed that “listening to the police department, listening to village employees [and listening to] all the residents” was key to developing solutions that work.
“Safety in numbers. I think that’s what makes the community safe,” Doss said. “I don’t see the community on Madison as much as we should, and I think it’s because of safety concerns.”
When asked on his position on bars on Madison Street, and whether Forest Park should be trying to reduce the number of liquor licenses, he said that “as long as business on Madison is running the right way and we’re not having issues, I don’t see a need to eliminate anything.”
“I just think we need to be recruiting more businesses, not just in Madison [street] but around town,” he added.
Doss said he would like to see some movement on the Altenheim site. He said he supported the work of the recently formed Altenheim Advisory Committee, which was charged with looking at all the plans for the site and developing a new plan. Doss said that he hoped that resident Ralph DiFebo’s proposal to turn the south side of the property into an outdoor performance venue would be incorporated into the final vision of the site.
“Obviously, I think, from what I heard, the public really wants it to stay green,” Doss said. “I’d love to see it stay green, but I also think there’s an opportunity for some type of mixed use over there.”
When it comes to the U.S. Army Reserve site, Doss said buying the site without being able to do an environmental study first was “absurd” and a “dealbreaker,” but he shared Commissioner Joe Byrnes’ hope that the village could persuade the military to change its mind. He said he had no objections to a private developer buying the site, so long as the village still as some say over what happens to the site.
The site is currently zoned for manufacturing, and any non-manufacturing use would require a zoning change.
Doss said he was opposed to Hoskins’ proposal to turn the existing building on the property into the new village municipal facilities.
“I’d definitely be against the village hall or that kind of thing – I think it needs to be revenue-generating, tax-generating,” he said. “[It needs to be] something big, to really anchor Roosevelt Road, in my opinion.”
Doss agreed that the village’s current municipal facilities were showing their age, but he thought that the commuter parking lot on Van Buren Street, which has seen less use since the pandemic, would make a good alternate site. He argued that it would also help address public safety issues at the Forest Park Blue Line terminus.
“With police department directly across the street, that, right there, improves the area tremendously,” Doss said.
He said he hopes that his character and his history in Forest Park would be assets in the mayoral race.
“I think I’m an honest person, I’m a hardworking person, I’m transparent.,” Doss said. “I was born and raised here. I’m retired here. If there’s a color for Forest Park, I bleed that color. I love this town so much that I want to be part of the group that’s moving Forest Park forward.”