Real estate broker Joe Landgrebe readily admits he doesn’t have all the answers – but, if elected Forest Park village commissioner, he intends to study every issue carefully before making any decision.
Landgrebe has never held an elected office before, but he has always been interested in politics and, after living in Forest Park for 10 years, he felt it would be a good time to give back. He believes his degree in business development and his real estate experience would help the village become a more attractive place to build and do business. Attracting more businesses, Landgrebe said, was vital in order to reduce public safety pension obligations and put more resources into the police and fire departments.
There are currently six candidates, three of whom are incumbents, running for four village commissioner seats. Landgrebe, who works in Oak Park, is one of the relatively late entries into the race. While he submitted the necessary nominating petition signatures, he hasn’t officially launched his campaign – something that he said was in the works, but he didn’t have a firm date yet.
Part of the challenge, he admitted, was that he was still trying to figure out the ins and outs of campaigning.
“This has always been in my vision, running for office, “ Landgrebe said. “As an undergrad, I studied politics and government. I’ve always been interested in this topic and cared about the government.”
He said he wanted to run for local government office because he cared about the village and because he believed he could make a difference on the local level. Landgrebe doesn’t believe Forest Park needs major changes, but there are some things he could help “fine-tune.”
His major priorities will be to improve public safety and encourage economic development – which innately tied into each other.
“I would like to encourage development here in Forest Park,” Landgrebe said. “We need to attract more businesses [in order to] raise revenue. Our firefighters and our police officers are underfunded, and they need more resources to do their job.”
He said that, while he believes his experience and skills would come in handy, he didn’t have any specific plan for how to accomplish it – only saying that he was open to using economic incentives through Tax Increment Financing districts, the American Recovery Plan Act federal stimulus funding and other sources. Landgrebe said that, as a commissioner, he would have a better understanding of exactly what factors Forest Park is working with, and he would be in a better shape to make the decisions once he’s better informed.
In fact, throughout the interview, Landgrebe didn’t hesitate to admit that he couldn’t answer some questions because he didn’t believe he knew enough about the topic, at least not yet. It’s why he’s keeping an open mind about the future of the village-owned portion of the historic Altenheim retirement community property. Landgrebe was similarly keeping an open mind about the future of the U.S. Army Reserve site, 7402 Roosevelt Rd. – though he added that he believed that the Roosevelt Road corridor in general could use more development.
“I do believe many areas in Forest Park are under-invested.” Landgrebe said.
“Madison Street is thriving, but we have another thoroughfare, Roosevelt [Road], which is underdeveloped, and more can be done to develop this area.”
Incumbent commissioner Maria Maxham said she would make changing the commissioner form of government a priority. There, Landgrebe once again said he had no opinion and he would ultimately support whatever the public wants – but argued that having a commissioner advocate for the change was inherently awkward.
“I think it’s somewhat contradictory, to say it doesn’t work and then run for the office [of commissioner],” he said. “I can’t speak against it, because I’m running for office as well.”
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