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posted: 3/14/2014 5:30 AM

Forest president candidates focus on their differences

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  • Republicans Joe Cantore, left, and Mary Lou Wehrli are hoping to become their party's nominee for president of the DuPage County Forest Preserve Commission.

    Republicans Joe Cantore, left, and Mary Lou Wehrli are hoping to become their party's nominee for president of the DuPage County Forest Preserve Commission.


With days left before Tuesday's primary, the two Republicans hoping to become the next president of the DuPage County Forest Preserve Commission are making their case for why they should be the GOP nominee.

For candidate Mary Lou Wehrli, that involves stressing the differences between herself and her opponent, Joe Cantore.

Cantore and Wehrli, who are both forest preserve commissioners, agree the mission of the forest preserve should be supported. They also agree the district should remain an independent government agency from the county.

But Wehrli says a major difference between herself and Cantore is in how they conduct themselves, especially during board meetings.

"He buries himself in his cellphone and his computer," Wehrli said of Cantore. "I bury myself in having read the packet and having good questions."

The 61-year-old Naperville resident said she's more "engaged" in the governing process than Cantore.

"Who asks questions? Who triggers debate and encourages involvement?" Wehrli said. "There's a huge difference."

Cantore defended his approach during meetings. He said he uses a computer because that's where he keeps the agenda and other meeting information.

"I wouldn't have accomplished the things that I have done over the last 11 years if I hadn't been engaged and if I hadn't been into the job," the 42-year-old Oak Brook resident said.

Cantore said his 11 years as a commissioner makes him more qualified than Wehrli to hold the position that's long been held by D. "Dewey" Pierotti Jr., who is retiring at the end of November.

Cantore said he has the experience needed to build consensus on the board.

"We have the same views on a lot of issues," Cantore said. "But I don't know how she was planning to accomplish some of those things.

"I am a consensus builder," he said. "That's what I want to be."

Wehrli, who was elected to the commission in fall 2012, insists she could work with the board to reach common goals.

"I have leadership qualities," she said. "I should be president of the forest preserve district."

Wehrli pointed to how she's already raised several issues during her time on the board that Cantore agrees with her about.

One dealt with the topic of the president's name appearing on dozens of signs at key sites, including preserves, around the county.

If elected, both Wehrli and Cantore said they would end the district's longtime practice of placing the board president's name on signs.

"Of course he agrees," Wehrli said. "He knows it's right."

Cantore insists his opposition to seeing the president's name on signs wasn't inspired by Wehrli.

"The sign thing was never even a consideration because it's not something that I would have done anyway," he said. "I would not want my name on there."

Whoever becomes the Republican nominee will advance to the November general election where they may be unopposed because no Democratic candidate has filed to enter the race.

On Thursday, DuPage Democratic Party Chairman Robert Peickert said party leaders have until June 2 to select a candidate and gather enough signatures to get that person on the November ballot.

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