Erik Spande: 2022 candidate for DuPage County Forest Preserve Board District 6
Office sought: DuPage County Forest Preserve Board District 6
Occupation: Environmental scientist
Previous offices held: Past Village President of Winfield (2013-2021); Village of Winfield Trustee (2011-2012); current President of the Illinois Prairie Path nonprofit corporation; current Secretary of the American Institute of Professional Geologists (Illinois Section); former Chair of Illinois Groundwater Association (2005)
Q: 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?
A: I'm running for forest preserve commissioner to make the forest preserve an even better resource by improving amenities we all enjoy, being a better steward of this environmental treasure, and better managing the revenue entrusted to us by taxpayers. As a longtime environmental scientist I am excited to work with the Forest Preserve board to make science-based initiatives to restore the environment and improve diversity.
As a former Mayor of Winfield, I believe that the Forest Preserve can do a better job maintaining and improving infrastructure and amenities to make the Forest Preserve an even better place for enjoyment of nature and health and wellness. As a longtime trail advocate I want to find additional opportunities to partner with communities and units of government on new features such as trails.
Q: 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.
A: As an environmental scientist (hydrogeologist) with over 30 years of experience working for a Fortune 500 engineering company, I will collaborate with the board to implement science-based improvements and restoration of the environment and construction of facilities.
As the successful former Mayor of Winfield I bring my conservative fiscal know-how to do more with less, so I can work with the board to find partners to share cost, identify grant opportunities, and apply best practices to maintain infrastructure and improving facilities.
Q: What role should the forest preserve play in preserving historic buildings on its land?
A: The Forest Preserve is fortunate to have legacy buildings, and this means that the board has opportunity to use these facilities for recreational and educational initiatives. The board must, therefore, maintain and when necessary identify new beneficial uses for historic buildings to promote citizen engagement and recreation. Historic facilities can have considerable cost for maintenance and operations, so the board needs to be innovative in identifying cost-effective best practices for maintaining and operating the facilities.
Q: 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?
A: The current Forest Preserve board is doing a good job using existing resources to improve environmental stewardship and enhance facilities to accommodate significantly increasing visitors. However, the Forest Preserve needs an infrastructure plan to improve fiscal planning and keep infrastructure in good repair.
The master plan made it clear that features such as bridges had been neglected and were clearly obsolete. When I was Winfield's mayor, we implemented an infrastructure plan for scheduled inspections, required maintenance, and projecting costs for repair and replacement 20 years into the future. This let the village understand staffing requirements and long-term costs.
This type of infrastructure plan is best practice for any large organization to ensure staff levels are sufficient to meet needs, that maintenance is not overlooked, and there are no safety and financial surprises that will negatively impact future budgets.
Q: What is the most important issue facing the forest preserves in your district and how should it be addressed?
A: The COVD pandemic significantly increased visitors to the Forest Preserve and nearby trails. This means that in board need to get additional citizen input and communication to prioritize resources to achieve its mission enhance and preserve nature and provide for the education and recreation of citizens.
When I was mayor of Winfield we had very little interaction with the District 6 forest preserve commissioner, and as the new Commissioner I will present regular updates to all communities in my district and will have outreach to volunteer and interested organization.
I will also collaborate with the Forest Preserve President and the board to identify where my specific skills as an environmental scientist can be put to good use in District 6 and other districts.