Endorsements: Tyson-Dunne, Whelan, Wehrli for DuPage County Forest Preserve.
The six candidates vying for three positions on the DuPage County Forest Preserve board share a passion for nature and making the most of the trails, parks and outdoor spaces. It's heartening to see six people committed to bringing out the best of our public land for as many as possible to enjoy.
They also are focusing this year on finding ways to make those areas more accessible to more of the public, from veterans to seniors to the 20-somethings to citizens of all backgrounds.
There are three races. In District 2, an open race between Democrat Tina Tyson-Dunne and Republican Karen Kelly features two newcomers who are no strangers to the DuPage Forest Preserve. Both are longtime volunteers for the preserve. Kelly said she was motivated to run by all the visitors she sees using the trails and facilities and wanting to make the experience as positive as possible. Tyson-Dunne found inspiration during the COVID-19 pandemic by how many new faces she saw using the trails and is making diversity and inclusion a focus of her campaign.
Democrat Jeff Gahris is challenging Republican incumbent Tim Whelan in District 4. Gahris brings a background as an environmental scientist and engineer including working with the U.S. EPA. An avid cyclist on the trails and longtime user of DuPage County's green spaces, solar energy is one of Gahris's points of emphasis, along with preserving natural areas and restoration. Whelan has a long background serving in DuPage County, from the school board to his work with the Forest Preserve. He is proud of the social media and other publicity works to promote what the Forest Preserve is doing, but would like improvement in accessiblilty for underserved groups. An East branch of the DuPage River trail that serves the center of the county from Butterfield Road to St. Charles Road is a priority.
Republican incumbent Mary Lou Wehrli is facing a challenge from Democrat Barbara O'Meara in District 5. O'Meara brings a fierce voice for climate change, the No. 1 reason she is running -- a "global issue that also is a local issue." She wants people educated in science to have a bigger voice.
An emphasis on pollinators, land bridges and micro forests are important to O'Meara. Wehrli, on the board since 2012, has a long list of initiatives she's been part of, including reduced salaries and no more pensions for members, land acquisition, more burns and what she called more respectful meetings.
Based on their combination of experience, new ideas and knowledge of the operation, the Daily Herald endorses Tyson-Dunne in District 2, Whelan in District 4 and Wehrli in District 5.