The political climate on the Hanover Park Park District board of commissioners is bound to shift next month as a newcomer takes the place of a two-term incumbent who was part of a narrow majority.
Debra Berthelot, the top vote-getter in a five-way race for three open seats, will be sworn at the May 23 park board meeting.
"I'm new, so I don't want to say, 'I want to change this or that,' right off the bat," Berthelot, 57, said. "I just want to learn first and be kind of a worker bee."
A 33-year resident of Hanover Park, Berthelot takes the seat held for the past eight years by Charles Morrison, a retiree who finished fourth in the April 5 election and is married to board President Mary Morrison.
Berthelot, who works in office administration and customer service, said she became interested in the park district a couple years ago when she noticed wildflowers and grass weren't being manicured at pond parks in an effort to keep geese out of the water. The result, she said, has been far more trash and no fewer geese.
She got to know neighbor Jenni Konstanzer, a newly elected village trustee, Mayor Rod Craig and other members of the Hanover Progress Party and heeded their recommendation to get involved in the park district's charitable foundation.
Berthelot, who's also involved in her St. Charles church, has since helped organize foundation fundraisers and reached out to businesses for contributions.
Park Commissioner Mark Elkins, who's served since 1995, considers Berthelot to be smart and sensible and said she's the only candidate he's ever seen attend board meetings. He also believes her involvement in the foundation is an indication she genuinely cares about programming and residents.
Still, Elkins said there's bound to tension since the Morrisons and Commissioner Jon Duesing have been aligned for so long.
And given the rocky relationship the village and the park district have historically had, he said he wishes Mayor Craig had stayed neutral in the election. He's hopeful that Berthelot won't feel indebted to him.
"There will be sparks, I can pretty much guarantee," Elkins said. "But I'm confident (Berthelot) will be an asset."