Karen Kelly: Candidate profile, DuPage County Forest Preserve Board-District 2

Republican Karen Kelly of Downers Grove and Democrat Tina Tyson-Dunne of Lombard are vying for an open District 2 seat on the DuPage County Forest Preserve District board of commissioners in the Nov. 3 general election.

Kelly is retired after working in treasury and finance for a global capital goods company. She is a trustee for the Downers Grove Township and a liaison to the township senior citizen committees. She has served as a DuPage County Forest Preserve volunteer and is a member of the Friends of Danada Fact Finder's Committee, currently unearthing historical facts about the owners of the Danada Farm and racing stables in Wheaton.

The District 2 seat currently is held by Republican Jeff Redick, who isn't running.

To explore her campaign website, visit

District 2 takes in all or parts of Lombard, Villa Park, Elmhurst, Oakbrook Terrace, Oak Brook, Westmont, Hinsdale, Addison, Clarendon Hills, Downers Grove, Naperville, Lisle and Woodridge.

The Daily Herald asked the candidates a series of questions. Here are Kelly's responses.

Q: Why are you running for this office, whether for reelection or election for the first time? Is there a particular issue that motivates you? If so, what?

A: This is the first time I am running for Forest Preserve Commissioner.

As a lifelong resident of DuPage County I have enjoyed the many wonderful attributes the forest preserve has to offer from walking trails, bicycle riding, educational classes and events such as the Danada Fall Festival.

As a commissioner and board member I will continue to support these valuable opportunities so that all visitors are able to enjoy them, especially during these challenging times and also move forward for future generations.

The forest preserves offer the beauty of nature for all to enjoy and find relaxation.

One issue that motivates me is educational opportunities. As a volunteer at the Danada Equestrian Center for the past 12 years, I have the opportunity to assist students taking riding lessons. The enjoyment and fulfillment students experience in learning something new is amazing! Opportunities like this should continue and I would promote not only those already in place, but to identify new learning opportunities.

Q: If you are an incumbent, describe your two biggest contributions to the board. If you are a non-incumbent, describe two ways you would contribute to the board.

A: As a non-incumbent, I will be able to contribute to the board with my current experience as a board member with the Downers Grove Township and corporate work experience.

As an elected trustee for the Downers Grove Township, I audit township expenses, review departmental budgets and recommend efficiencies for the township to operate more efficiently.

My experience in board meetings gives me the skills necessary to join the forest preserve board and work productively with other board members to fulfill the mission statement of the forest preserve.

My experience in budget preparation and auditing is another asset I will be able to contribute to the board.

Working in the corporate environment for more than 40 years, my responsibilities included years of budget preparation, auditing and human resources.

Both of these are valuable assets and experiences I will contribute to the board.

Q: What role should the forest preserve play in preserving historic buildings on its land?

A: The Forest Preserve of DuPage County has, over time, become the holder of historic facilities and lands and has a duty to care for and tend to them. Going forward it should focus on the costs of preservation, restoration and educational opportunities associated with these natural holdings.

Q: How would you rate the job the commission is doing to develop existing forest preserves and make them accessible to residents? How would you approach things differently?

A: The commission is accomplishing the set goals that support the mission statement of the forest preserve.

With over 26,000 acres of land, the forest preserve needs to focus on restoration rather than acquisition.

There are very few land parcels available, especially in District 2, that would dramatically improve preserve holdings.

If an opportunity for land purchase did arise that would meet the required purchase criteria, it should be considered.

The continued efforts of trail development such as the west branch and east branch, trail connections and safety improvements for those using the trails is necessary to provide to visitors.

The master plan, recently approved by the board, lists projects in priority and necessity and is also fluid if changes need to be made. This is a correct step in the direction for the forest preserve.

Q: What is the most important issue facing the forest preserves in your district and how should it be addressed?

A: The most important issue to me in District 2 and the forest preserve as a whole is taxes.

With the COVID impact on local government, there could be a potential demand for increased property taxes at other levels of government. The forest preserve is well positioned to offer relief on the levy and should be considered.

Over the past six years, it has significantly reduced its tax levy, utilizing investments in technology and intergovernmental service consolidation to improve efficiencies and reduce head count. Additionally, voter-approved bonds will soon be paid off, which will provide additional opportunity for tax savings. The forest preserve needs to continue on this path to potentially reduce the tax levy.

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