DuPage forest candidates share ideas on pension, pay reform
Four Republicans running for a seat on the DuPage County Forest Preserve Commission say commissioner salaries and pensions must be reformed, but they differ on by exactly how much.
Kory Atkinson of Roselle, Peter Connolly of Wayne, Al Murphy of West Chicago and Arthur Pierscionek of Bartlett will compete in the March 20 Republican primary. The winner will face Democrat Shannon Burns in the November general election.
All aim to fill the seat of longtime incumbent Roger Kotecki, who is stepping down from the commission after 20 years.
Atkinson, an attorney, is the only candidate who supports keeping salaries around their current $57,000 for a job that requires 1,000 hours of annual service. But he also said it would be wrong to accept a pension.
"It's incumbent on elected officials to lead the way in pension reform ... and not be a part of the problem," Atkinson said.
He adds, however, that commissioners' salaries -- the highest of any part-time county official -- are an incentive to attract qualified leaders.
"When it comes to the forest preserve, the mission is different from county board and village trustee," Atkinson said. "Your vision has to be 20, 50, 100 years out, and plan real estate for future generations. What I see in the pay is incentive for (commissioners) to care more than they otherwise would."
Murphy, who owns a hardware store, takes a stronger stance on pensions, saying his goal in his first year in office would be to eliminate the benefit. He also wants to eliminate health insurance benefits for commissioners and reduce their salaries by 20 percent.
"If you were putting in full-time hours then, sure, you deserve (benefits)," said Murphy. "But out in the real world, most employers don't do that."
Connolly, a retired commercial banker, said salaries need to be brought more in line with the pay for DuPage County Board members, which is currently about $50,000 a year. He said he would support a pay reduction of about $6,000 to $10,000 for commissioners, adding that the president's $107,000 annual salary also should be cut, although he did not offer a specific figure.
Connolly said he would forego a pension, saying "pensions in Illinois are totally out of control."
Pierscionek, an information technology consultant, joined the others in saying he would not take a pension for what amounts to a part-time job.
As for salaries, he's concerned that commissioners are making more than county board members.
"What's the right salary? I don't know," he said, although he believes $45,000 "would be about right."
"If it's too low," he said, "you won't attract good candidates."
Ultimately, he said, pay and benefits at all levels of the forest preserve district, including elected officials, should be modeled after the private sector.
District 6 includes all or parts of Warrenville, Batavia, West Chicago, Wheaton, Winfield, Carol Stream, Bloomingdale, Hanover Park, Bartlett, Wayne and St. Charles.