DuPage forest Dist. 5 race features 'citizen advocate,' nature expert
The Republican primary for the District 5 seat on the DuPage Forest Preserve Commission pits a Naperville incumbent who touts her community connections against an Aurora challenger who promotes his background in natural resources.
Incumbent Mary Lou Wehrli of Naperville and challenger Carl Schultz of Aurora are seeking the GOP nomination in the March 15 primary to represent a district that covers all or parts of Aurora, Lisle, Naperville and Warrenville.
Wehrli, 62, who works in property management and sales, won the District 5 seat in the 2012 election. Schultz, a 58-year-old horticulturist, held the same seat from 2002 to 2012, but lost the last election to Wehrli.
Wehrli is campaigning on her role as a "citizen advocate" for causes, such as preservation of cultural assets and creation of trail connections. She's painting Schultz as a political insider who wants back in the game.
"I come in as kind of an outsider because I'm not climbing a political ladder. I'm not looking for a political career," Wehrli said. "But this is in my backyard and this affects properties and people I know. It affects the young people that are coming here and take this for granted. And everybody loves the forest preserve."
Schultz is campaigning on his decade of expertise handling forest maintenance, land acquisition and historic preservation issues. He's questioning Wehrli's ability to work with others on the commission, saying he'll be more "collaborative."
"I'd be a great commissioner to bring back on because I have an outstanding rapport with staff," Schultz said. "I do a lot of things as a horticulturist and my experience as a commissioner that made them more effective and more efficient. And that's something that can be utilized now."
Wehrli says her connections in and knowledge of Naperville along with her decades of community service make her the best for the seat.
"I'm a citizen advocate. I come from a grassroots background of using our forest preserves and recognizing what can be improved," Wehrli said. "I feel that my years in public service as a volunteer and actually involved in many things, particularly in the Naperville community, have led me to have relationships and a strong understanding of what it takes to get something done in government and to include the public, to include the voice of the public."
Schultz says the commission needs his experience and professional knowledge as a horticulturist because it lacks any members skilled in a natural resources field.
"Now that we're getting to the point where we're not making as much active purchase of land, we're going to have to transition a little bit more to education and recreation ... particularly in areas where we don't have forest preserves like the west part of District 5," Schultz said. "To get any benefit from the forest preserve, they're going to have to have a little more activity, possibly a forest preserve on wheels."
No Democrats have filed to seek the District 5 seat. So the winner of the Republican primary could be unopposed in the Nov. 8 general election.