When voters elect the next president of the DuPage County Forest Preserve District in November 2014, it will be the first time in 20 years longtime incumbent D. "Dewey" Pierotti Jr. has not been on the ballot.
As the first candidate to announce his desire to replace Pierotti, forest preserve Commissioner Joseph Cantore hopes voters will want to select another familiar face.
Cantore, an 11-year member of the commission and a former Oakbrook Terrace alderman, said Wednesday he will seek the district presidency, a post Pierotti had held since 1994.
Cantore said he remains committed to "protecting taxpayers and ensuring that the (district) continues to be among one of, if not the premier forest preserve districts in the country."
"I love the forest preserve as a living thing and as an organization. In the last 11 years I have enjoyed working with residents and other agencies to improve our district holdings, and I'm looking forward to continuing our mission," Cantore said. "(Pierotti) stepping aside next November really presents a unique opportunity for new leadership and new ideas at the top. It's the right time."
Cantore said he will continue his efforts to make the organization as "transparent and accountable" as possible.
"We do this now for generations to come," he said.
Cantore is likely to have some competition in the March 18 general primary election.
Former Elmhurst Mayor and current DuPage County Board District 2 member Pete DiCianni said his role as the county board's environmental chairman and his history championing stormwater issues as Elmhurst mayor make him the ideal forest preserve presidential candidate.
He said he's in "serious talks" with his wife and children about the potential political shift from the county board to the forest preserve district.
"I already have major backing from very influential people who are leaning on me to run, but we need to make sure it's the right decision," DiCianni said Wednesday afternoon. "If I run, I have the party leaders who have pushed me toward this decision and they will help me raise the dollars necessary to run a campaign on the issues."
Cantore called a rumor that he is willing to spend $1 million to win the $75,000-a-year position "ridiculous."
"Who would do that?" he said.
Newly elected Commissioner Mary Lou Wehrli of Naperville was noncommittal Wednesday when asked about speculation she would also enter the race.
"I am extremely concerned about the future leadership of the forest preserve district because we are entering a very exciting and important crossroads, but it's too early to be making decisions (about whether to enter the race)," Wehrli said. "The best way to describe my status right now is that I am paying attention. I am paying very close attention."
The period for circulating petitions for the March 18, 2014, primary begins Tuesday and continues through Dec. 2. Petition filing begins Nov. 25 and ends Dec. 2.
Republicans seeking this position will need to collect 1,449 signatures, while Democrats will need to collect 998.