Joseph Cantore: Candidate profile
Name: Joseph Cantore
City: Oak Brook
Facebook: Joe Cantore (@ElectJoeCantore)
Office sought: President, Forest Preserve District of DuPage County
Family: Wife, Jaclyn, Sons, Joe and Jon, and German Shepard, Baron
Occupation: Real Estate Management
Education: Graduate, Marmion Military Academy, Aurora; Graduate of Drake University, DesMoines, IA, Bachelor of Science, Business Administration
Civic involvement: Chairman, Forest Preserve District of DuPage County Recreation Committee (4 years); Former commissioner, Oakbrook Terrace Planning and Zoning Commission, (2 years, 1996-1998); Member, The Conservation Foundation; Member, Illinois Arborist Association; Former Volunteer Teacher, Marmion Academy (2 years); Volunteer Police Officer (20 years); Volunteer, "Meals on Wheels" for York Township Seniors, operated by DuPage Senior Citizens Council (17 years); Member, St. Issac Jogues, Hinsdale
Elected offices held: President, Forest Preserve District of DuPage County (2014-); Commissioner, District 2, Forest Preserve District of DuPage County (2002-2014); Former alderman, City of Oakbrook Terrace (4 years, 1998-2002)
Questions & Answers:
1. Why are you running for this office? Is there a particular issue that motivates you?
It all begins and ends with land preservation; the way in which the district acquires land, and our ongoing preservation and restoration efforts once we own the land.
I was elected a forest preserve commissioner in 2002 and was elected president of the forest preserve district in 2014. I was motivated to run for the position back in 2001 because I personally experienced what I considered to be insensitive land acquisition practices by the county. Once elected, however, I focused on helping preserve and maintain our forests, prairies, wetlands and plant communities to help enhance the quality of life for all DuPage County residents. As forest preserve president, I believe I have had a greater impact in accomplishing the district's mission by helping to establish policies and practices that ensure sustainability for future generations.
The mission and vision of the forest preserve district is one that personally resonates. Put simply, I love our DuPage forest preserves. I love the outdoors and live an active/outdoor lifestyle that includes hiking, biking, running, and most recently, fishing with my 4-year old son. My wife and I also enjoy taking our dog to many of the preserves including Mayslake Forest Preserve, which features an off-leash dog area.
Over the past four years, I have been actively working to increase public participation in our preserves and programs. I believe our forest preserves are valuable resources which ultimately enhance the quality of life for all DuPage County residents. Studies are showing the more time people spend outdoors, the more creative and productive they become. Stress is also significantly reduced when people spend time in nature. Any resident of DuPage County can benefit from our forest preserves, and the best part is, they have this tremendous resource right in their own backyard!
2. If you are an incumbent, describe two important initiatives you've led. If you're not an incumbent, describe two ways you would contribute to the board.
Shared services is an important part of what we do at the district. It is an ongoing effort to explore for creative ways to streamline processes and develop strategic partnerships. Through my experiences running my businesses, I know creating partnerships with other organizations is essential to keeping costs down and to improving efficiency. The district has secured over 100 intergovernmental partnership agreements during my tenure. In May of 2017, the district and the county entered into a shared services and joint-purchasing agreement with the county. Taxpayers have realized over $275,000 in savings with this partnership alone.
Project management is another aspect of organization operations which is crucial. We owe it to our residents to complete projects within the proposed time and costs. To effectively run any business or organization, estimated timelines and budgets for projects need to be adhered to. Since I have been president, there have been numerous large-scale projects which have completed within the forecast budget and timeline. Some of those projects include:
• The Preserve at Oak Meadows Restoration
• Spring Brook restoration at St. James Farm
• The Blackwell Fleet Maintenance Building
• McDowell Grove Bridge
• St. James Farm Indoor Riding Arena
• Oldfield Oaks Off-Leash Dog Area
• West DuPage River Trail from Winfield Mounds to West DuPage Woods
And since 2014-15 FPPD has:
• improved efficiency through increased investment in technology,
• worked in partnership with other government and private entities in order to achieve efficiencies and reduce duplication of services, and
• implemented common sense policy changes that provide long term financial stability for the FPDC.
We have also eliminated systematic Pension Spiking by public employees and eliminated pensions for elected officials.
As a result, we have decreased head count by 10 percent (34 employee) and decreased our operating budget by 15 percent ($6.9 million).
We have also expanded our land holdings to 12 percent of the total land mass in the county, preserving open space in order to protect us from over development and maintain our high quality of life.
3. How would you rate the job the board is doing to develop existing forest preserves and make them accessible to residents? How would you approach things differently?
The district has made huge strides in many different areas during the last four years of my tenure as president. Our focus is gradually shifting away from large acquisitions to smaller acquisitions and we are more focused on really paying attention to what we own and taking care of it properly. We are also focused on smaller acquisitions that work in concert with our existing holdings in order to provide improvements like trail links, etc.
And since we're concentrating more on keeping our existing preserves in top shape, that means restorations will also become more of a priority in the coming years.
I think there is always room for improvement when it comes to community engagement and involvement. Everyone at the Forest Preserve, from the commissioners and staff to the volunteers, are proud of what the district has accomplished and want the public to know about the great things going on at the district. We also want to know what the residents of DuPage County think and what they want to see happen in their forest preserves, now and in the future.
As a board, we are always striving to seek continuous feedback from our community. We are in the midst of developing our master plan which will serve as our road map for the coming years. The plan's goals and objectives were derived directly from the feedback we received from our residents, staff, and board. I believe the board is continuing an upward trajectory and the best is yet to come!
Over the past years, the district has also taken many positive steps to improve transparency and accessibility to what the forest preserve has to offer, ensuring we are on the right path to what the residents of DuPage County expect from their forest preserve district. Two examples of this are the forest preserve website, with its transparency portal and all of the other features connected to it, and our quarterly evening meetings, which give the public who cannot normally attend a day meeting because of work commitments the opportunity to attend a forest preserve meeting.
4. What is the most important issue facing the forest preserve district as a whole and how should it be addressed?
I believe the biggest issue facing the district is the balancing of the relationship between our natural resources and financial resources. Managing 26,000 acres of land is an immense challenge for any organization. In this day and age, our community has high expectations of how efficiently we maintain and improve our lands. We must continue to leverage our experience, creativity, and collaboration to address our ongoing challenges. Native lands do no maintain themselves, and I believe the district is in a position to deliver on our promises and vision for the future.
5. Please name one current leader who most inspires you.
Locally, there many day to day leaders who are inspirational and don't fall into the traditional sense of leaders, since they themselves don't announce themselves as leaders. Yet they motivate people in so many ways because of what they do.
I am inspired by Dr. Lawrence DuBose, a DuPage County resident and longtime forest preserve volunteer with the district's Kline Creek Farm, who was recently named "Beekeeper of the Year" by the Illinois State Beekeepers Association.
Dr. DuBose has been beekeeping since 1933, when he received his first hive at age 13. He helped establish the beekeeping program at Kline Creek Farm more than 30 years ago and donated $100,000 to the district in 2010 to help construct the farm's honey house. In addition to providing a designated space where volunteers can process and package the honey the farm sells at its gift shop, the building offers a place where visitors can learn about honeybees, pollination and environmental responsibility.
I consider Dr. DuBose an inspirational leader for his efforts to help people understand the importance of the honeybee and his leadership in educating the public about the crucial role honeybees play in agriculture. Soft-spoken but firm, and always willing to teach what he knows to anyone who asks.
6. What is the biggest lesson you learned at home growing up?
Respect people, treat them fairly and with kindness. And be nice. It doesn't cost a thing.
7. If life gave you one do-over, what would you spend it on?
I wouldn't do any part of life over. You live and learn from everything. You can't live in the past. Who I am today, and what I've learned, came from everything I've experienced in the past, including successes and failures. You never stop learning.
8. What was your favorite subject in school and how did it help you in later life?
History. Everything from world history to art history to economic history. If we can understand our past, it helps us understand our present time, and if we listen, can help us plan for our future.
9. If you could give your children only one piece of advice, what would it be?
Take advantage of every day you have. Slow down and enjoy it. Life is beautiful and it moves by so fast.
My father gave me that advice when I was a boy, but I never realized how right he was until recently. As time progresses and technology invades our lives, it feels like every day moves by in a flash. Slow down once in a while and enjoy our world and the people you're surrounded by.