After more than 20 years serving on the DuPage County Forest Preserve commission, Roger Kotecki will not seek re-election in March of next year.
Because he wants to spend more time focusing on personal goals and family, Kotecki said, he will finish his run as District 6 commissioner when his term ends in December 2012.
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Kotecki said he's announcing his decision early so potential candidates have ample time to mount a campaign.
"This is a job which deserves somebody who understands all that it involves," Kotecki said.
West Chicago Alderman Al Murphy and advocate Shannon Burns, also of West Chicago, both already announced that they will run for the District 6 seat. The district covers all or portions of Kotecki's hometown of Warrenville, as well as Bartlett, Carol Stream, West Chicago, Winfield, Wheaton, Naperville and Aurora.
Kotecki, an attorney, grew up in DuPage County during the late 1950s and early '60s, a time when more than half of DuPage County was still farms and open space. He said this helped spark his passion for natural areas.
"The county has reached a place where every acre of open space is precious," he said. "The number of farm acres left is maybe 2,000, and the privately held open space is pretty well gone.
"But it's pretty important for the suburban quality of life to have plenty of open space available to people," he added. "I think especially in this economy, people appreciate it even more when they don't have the money to go west or to Canada, but need a respite from everyday cares and concerns."
Kotecki said he is proud of more than 4,000 acres of land the forest preserve commission acquired during his tenure, as well as the district's expansion of its multipurpose trail system. He added that while he's also pleased to see large segments of the West Branch Regional Trail in place, which runs west of the DuPage River, with another two segments set for completion next year and another two in line for grants.
"I'd hoped to have more of it under way and have it done before I left, but to have the goal sort of within sight is good," said Kotecki.
During the recession, the forest preserve has avoided staff layoffs and remained in good financial health. Kotecki said this is also a point of pride and he attributes it partly to good foresight among commissioners.
"So many units of government, when times are good, they spent all their money," he said. "We didn't do that and said we are in this for the long haul, because we have an obligation to imagine and project what the land should look like 20, 30 or 100 years from now."
Kotecki would like to see some of those funds continue to be used toward nature preservation and restoration. And in his free time, he puts his money where his mouth is.
Visitors to Kline Creek Farm in West Chicago, a living history museum, will often see Kotecki volunteering. He is especially known for donning a Civil War-era costume and singing songs from that time period during the farm's Memorial Day event. He also volunteers as a prairie steward at West Chicago Prairie Forest Preserve, has participated in Comcast Cares Days doing cleanup at St. James Farm in Warrenville, joined cleaning crews on the Illinois Prairie Path and helped the Naperville-based Conservation Foundation's stream cleaning efforts.