Mary Lou Wehrli: Candidate profile
Office sought: DuPage Forest Preserve Commission, District 5
Education: Bachelor's from University of Illinois; bachelor's from Columbia College
Civic involvement: Community advocate with past leadership in Riverwalk Foundation (founding president);
Naperville Heritage Society director; KidsMatter director; Rotary Club of Naperville Sunrise director; Citizen Advocate West Branch Riverway Trail
Elected offices held: Naperville Park District commissioner and president; DuPage Forest Preserve District commissioner
Incumbent? If yes, when were first elected: Yes, 2012
Questions and Answers
1. 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?
I, Mary Lou Wehrli, am running for commissioner to be an active informed, thoughtful, creative, respectful, present and tenacious voice on the seven-member board of the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County. I am running to empower a thriving natural environment and a healthy, educated citizenry connected to the land. I am running to support the continued inclusion of cultural heritage which informs and celebrates human connections to forest preserve land.
I am motivated by possibilities, inclusion, and speaking truth to power. I am motivated by what can be done in concert, in cooperation, with common sense and patience. I am motivated by the challenges that unite us in preserving the land and heritage of DuPage County.
2. 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.
Mary Lou Wehrli's two biggest contributions to the board are 1) the removal of pension benefit and reduction of salaries for elected officials; the streaming of board meetings; elimination of elected official names from district signage, and 2) setting an example: 97-acres of managed wetland and new trail system was obtained for the public at no cost to the taxpayers by being involved, informed and present during the Country Lakes transition. Who? Mary Lou identified and coordinated the interests and resources of Pulte Homes, the city of Naperville, and The Conservation Foundation to mitigate floodwater challenges, increase homeownership (quality living for residents and wildlife and tax base), and connect trails.
3. What role should the forest preserve play in preserving historic buildings on its land?
The forest preserve district should play a proactive role in preserving historic buildings on its land. Cultural Stewardship is a goal approved in the 2014 Strategic Plan. The 2017 Public Survey identified one of the top three things valued by DuPage County citizens is taking care of what we have. (1. preserve land, 2. connect trails, 3. take care of what we have.) The district should integrate within the context of the adjacent natural landscape historic buildings that have public support, funding, vision and purpose. A master plan for the specific forest preserve should be completed or updated to identify and guide the relevance of the historic building and its surroundings. Costs, programing and potential return on investment should guide the future of historic buildings. Priority should be given to community supported buildings that will be revenue neutral or positive.
4. 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?
C-minus for facilities: 65% of survey responses indicate residents drive 3 to 10 miles to go to a forest preserve. All six facilities are in the central east-west third of the county. There are no facilities in the south. There will soon be one facility in the north, a clubhouse at The Preserve golf course. Programming should be more evenly distributed (accessible). Traffic and personal schedules prevent individuals and families from traveling far to take advantage of their discretionary time. Development should take a more aggressive approach to revenue generation.
B-plus for forest preserves: The 2019 adopted Master Plan begins to organize and prioritize preserve accessibility to residents: trails, waterways, bridges, parking lots, buildings. Considerations of safety, utilities, partners, asset protection and operational savings support residential access. Exhilarating health and education opportunities are present in a forest preserve every day whether accessed by foot, stroller, bike, canoe, vehicle, dog sled or horseback. Keep in mind that preserves that are not very resident accessible offer a more confident home to wildlife. Many citizens prefer to see a preserve left alone.
I would approach development and accessibility of preserves guided by safety, public support, partnerships, and revenue generation.
5. What is the most important issue facing the forest preserves in your district and how should it be addressed?
The most important issue in District 5 is the celebration of 1,829-acre Springbrook Prairie Forest Preserve/Nature Preserve as recipient of Chicago Wilderness Platinum Award for Excellence in Ecological Restoration. Yay! It can be addressed by visiting to experience the beauty and wonder!
Another important issue in District 5 is the lack of a nearby unique, mission-driven forest preserve facility and the lack of forest preserve environmental and cultural programming. This lack should be addressed with collaboration to create a gathering space at the Greene Barn by making the barn open to the public and the East Branch of the DuPage River more accessible. See the Greene Barn Ad Hoc Committee Report https://www.dupageforest.org/hubfs/Our-Board/Documents/Greene%20Farm%20Barn%20Ad%20Hoc%20Committee/Greene%20Farm%20Barn%20Recommendation.pdf.