Three veteran members of the DuPage Forest Preserve Commission shared emotional farewells Tuesday as their replacements prepare to be seated in December.
District 6 Commissioner Roger Kotecki chose not to run for re-election this fall after serving 20 years on the board. District 4 Commissioner Michael Formento served for 22 years combined over several terms and Commissioner Carl Schultz represented District 5 for a straight decade. Both were defeated in the spring GOP primary.
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With all three visibly holding back tears at certain points during a commission meeting, they were honored by their fellow board members and reflected on their own service. Several members of the public also spoke to congratulate the men, including Hanover Park Mayor Rod Craig and Schultz's wife, Karen.
Forest President D. "Dewey" Pierotti Jr. commended the incumbents for helping the district maintain a balanced budget and increase land acquisitions to more than 25,000 acres.
"The three of you should be very proud of what you've done for the people of DuPage County and generations to come," Pierotti said. "You've always acted with the highest level of integrity."
Kotecki complimented his fellow commissioners on their work to expand the preserves, create more trails and even their ability to disagree.
"We can argue, and argue vigorously, but we understand where we come from is the heart," Kotecki said.
Kotecki, a commissioner known for most actively using the forest preserves, said the future commission should focus on land restoration and removing invasive species like buckthorn and honeysuckle "so the people can get in and actually see what they have purchased."
Schultz, a horticulturist, was the only member of the commission who worked in environmental sciences. Several of his colleagues said his expertise will be missed and Kotecki called it "invaluable."
But Schultz gave credit to the staff for the district's successes and said the work to keep the forests in pristine shape will never be done.
"You must always be vigilant and always be concerned with what you're leaving for the next generation," he said.
His wife, Karen, spoke before the commission and said she recently asked her husband what he's thankful for, in light of the Thanksgiving holiday.
Right behind his family, Shultz told her he was thankful for "a decade of the best job in the world."
Formento also thanked staff, whom he called colleagues and friends, and vowed to continue working in public service. He also said all commissioners on the current board have served as good stewards of the land.
"They voted with their conscience, did what they believed in, and voted with the best interest of the forest preserve," Formento said. "Nothing could be more responsible."
On Dec. 3 the district will swear in newcomers Tim Whelan of Wheaton to represent District 4, Mary Lou Wehrli of Naperville to represent District 5 and Shannon Burns of West Chicago to represent District 6. District 1, 2, and 3 incumbents, respectively, who also will be sworn-in are Marsha Murphy, Joe Cantore and Linda Painter. Burns is the lone Democrat.