By Nona Tepper
Ten challengers have emerged for the four village commissioner seats open this April. Two candidates — one filing for both mayor and commissioner — have also filed for the mayoral race, after Mayor Anthony Calderone announced he will not seek a sixth term. Candidates' final day to file their nominating petitions was Dec. 17.
Incumbents Joe Byrnes, who works part-time at the Park District of Forest Park, and Daniel Novak, superintendent of special facilities at the Wheaton Park District, are seeking re-election. Former commissioners Chris Harris, who owns a marketing firm, and Martin Tellalian, manager at an engineering firm, are also running; both previously challenged, and lost to, Calderone for the village's top spot. Harris has also entered the mayoral race, where he will challenge Rory Hoskins.
Hoskins announced he was running for mayor in October, and was the first candidate to publicly come forward in any of the races. He previously served as a village commissioner, is president of the Proviso Township Democratic Organization, and in 2012 came in second in a tight race for state representative of the seventh district, losing to Emanuel "Chris" Welch by 36 votes. He would be the first African-American mayor to represent Forest Park.
A slate of four commissioner candidates — Jessica Voogd, a buyer and set decorator for TV and film productions; Mark Boroughf, owner of a commercial printing firm; Jon Robert Kubricht, a local property investor who owns an imported jewelry store in Chicago; and Julianne Bonwit, a stay-at-home mother and former social worker — have formed a commissioner slate with Hoskins and intend to support him.
Harris has until Jan. 24 to withdraw his candidacy from either the mayoral or commissioners race. He said he filed for both not for any "strategic reason" but just because he has not finished talking with local stakeholders about his decision. He did not clarify who those stakeholders were.
"It really is a seismic move when a mayor of 20 years decides not to run," Harris said in an email to the Review. Mayor Anthony Calderone publicly announced he would not seek re-election on Dec. 6. "It's only been a couple weeks since he announced that he wasn't running and there were just so many conversations to have after that. The landscape has totally changed.
"I still believe the fundamental things I was fighting for on the board are just as relevant today [the fiscal well-being of the village, long-term planning/an economic vision, increasing public input and greater transparency]. I also think the town needs to heal from the divide over video gaming. I know people from both sides of the aisle in that battle and call them friends. I think it will take a person who understands both sides and can have a conversation with both sides to get the healing to start."
In addition to Harris, Ryan Russ, maintenance foreman at the Park District of Forest Park; and Ryan Nero, director of safety at a construction firm, are also seeking commissioner seats.