Robert J. Schillerstrom: 2022 candidate for DuPage County Forest Preserve Board President
Office sought: DuPage County Forest Preserve Board President
Previous offices held: DuPage County Forest Preserve District Commission (1986-92 and 1998-2002); DuPage County Board member (1986-94); DuPage County Board Chairman (1998-2010); Naperville Park District President (1985-87) and Commissioner (1983-1987); and Chairman of the Illinois Toll Highway Authority Board (2015-19)
Q: Why are you running for this office? Is there a particular issue that motivates you?
A: I am running for Forest Preserve President to protect our environment. The Forest Preserve District of DuPage County is very important to our quality of life and should be a stronger advocate for the environment.
I am uniquely qualified to lead the district in those directions having worked closely with the district for the last 35 years, first as president of the Naperville Park District, as a three-term member of the Forest Preserve Board, as president of the Conservation Foundation, as a three-term DuPage County Board Chairman and also as a longtime trustee of the Morton Arboretum.
As president, I will lead the district in a financially responsible manner, focusing on the environment by acquiring more land for more preserves and to tie existing preserves together. I will build more trails and better tie them together into a network for enhanced recreational opportunities. I will also plant thousands of trees for our children and grandchildren to help mitigate climate change.
Q: 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 forest preserve district.
A: During my time as a forest preserve commissioner, the district acquired 5,000 new acres of land and preserved thousands of trees. Second we built miles of trails. On behalf of the Forest Preserve District, I personally drafted an agreement between the City of Naperville, the Naperville Park District and the Forest Preserve District to acquire land to fill in trail gaps along the West Branch of the DuPage River.
I then led the work to complete the trail along the West Branch of the DuPage River from the Will County line to the Tollway.
As a commissioner, I also advocated to build trails along Salt Creek, and along the East Branch of the DuPage River and to build other trails within forest preserves and to tie those trails into regional trails. As president, I will continue to acquire and preserve open space and build and tie trails together, with a particular focus to complete the trails along Salt Creek and the West and East Branches of the DuPage River.
Q: How would you rate the job the forest preserve district is doing to develop its preserves and make them accessible to residents? How would you approach things differently?
A: The commission could do a better job of making our forest preserves accessible and safe for all our citizens. Additionally, the commission could do a better job with accessibility for disabled and the elderly. I will make these issues a priority in my administration.
Lastly, the commission's focus on brick and mortar projects to the detriment of trail development, land acquisition, wetland creation, tree planting and connecting forest preserves is misguided. As president, I will make our forest preserves more accessible, safe and usable for all residents including cyclists, hikers, the elderly and disabled.
Additionally, I will acquire more land for more preserves and to preserve more of our natural resources. I will plant trees to improve our tree canopy and to mitigate climate change. I will complete trails along our rivers and build wetlands to clean our waterways.
Q: What is the most important issue facing the forest preserve district as a whole and how should it be addressed?
A: The Forest Preserve needs innovative, bold new leadership to reach its potential as an advocate for the environment and to provide the best recreational opportunities for our citizens. As president, I will acquire more land to preserve our natural habitats.
I will build more trails so more of our citizens can enjoy nature. I will plant thousands of new trees to help mitigate climate change. I will protect and enhance our existing forests and open space. I will build wetlands to clean up our waterways. I will keep the cost of government down and accomplish the above tasks without raising taxes as I did as county board chairman where I invested regularly in our infrastructure but still reduced taxes nine out of my 12 years as chairman of the DuPage County Board.