Carter won't return as Lake Co. forest board president

Lake County Forest Preserve District board President Bonnie Thomson Carter on Wednesday said she won't seek another term in that post.

Carter, an Ingleside Republican, said it's been an honor to lead the panel since 2002. However, she said she “didn't own the position.”

“There are other people who should have the opportunity like I have (had),” Carter said.

Carter will remain on the board even though she's stepping down as president. She was last elected to represent the county's 5th District in 2008, and her term ends in 2012.

The forest board, which doubles as the Lake County Board, will choose a new president and vice president from its membership during a special meeting on Dec. 6. The appointees will hold the posts for two years.

Libertyville Republican Carol Calabresa now serves as the panel's vice president.

The county board will select a chairman and vice chairman in a separate meeting the same day. It, too, will have a new leader, because current Chairman Suzi Schmidt is leaving the board to join the state Senate.

Carter's tenure as board president has seen the district's holdings grow tremendously. It's gained more than 5,000 acres in that time, much of which has been opened for public use.

The district now owns an estimated 28,800 acres.

Trails and other public amenities have been created or expanded during her presidency, too, including the Des Plaines River Trail and Millennium Trail.

“Bonnie is one of the most well respected elected open space officials in the state,” forest district Executive Director Tom Hahn said in prepared remarks. “I know, because many of my colleagues in other agencies have told me that they wish they had a committed person like Bonnie on their board.”

In an interview Wednesday, forest board member Steve Carlson praised Carter's leadership.

“She's presided over unprecedented expansion,” said Carlson, a Gurnee Republican. “Her legacy will endure for generations to come.”

Fellow commissioner Pat Carey praised Carter for her ability to work with the large district staff and administration. When the next president takes over, Carey said, the district will be in good shape because of Carter's work.

“She put her heart and soul into her job (as president),” said Carey, a Grayslake Democrat.

Carter's presidency has included some rough spots. One of the biggest is the still-unresolved fight over the Fort Sheridan Forest Preserve near Highland Park, particularly whether a golf course will be built there.

Forest district officials tore up an existing golf course with plans to build an upscale, 18-hole layout there, but it was scuttled in 2004 after cost estimates came in much higher than originally proposed.

Officials now are considering building a smaller layout at Fort Sheridan, but many residents at the nearby Town of Fort Sheridan are angry because they feel they were promised a different course when they bought their homes.