Democrat captures one of six DuPage forest seats

  • Shannon Burns

    Shannon Burns

  • Mary Lou Wehrli

    Mary Lou Wehrli

  • Tim Whelan

    Tim Whelan

Updated 11/6/2012 11:17 PM

Voters have elected a Democrat to the DuPage County Forest Preserve Commission for the first time since the board became independent a decade ago.

With all precincts reporting, unofficial vote totals Tuesday showed District 6 Democrat Shannon Burns of West Chicago edged Republican Al Murphy, also of West Chicago, by just 596 votes -- 28,714 to 28,118.


This was Burns's second attempt at winning the seat, and she said her victory shows a slight shift in voter attitudes.

"I think it means people are starting to understand party politics don't have any place in land management," Burns said. "People are more interested in having representation that is focused on people ... rather than party politics."

Burns, who has attended forest commission meetings regularly for years, said she has worked to develop relationships with both the Republican incumbents and two newcomers who won seats Tuesday. She said she also hopes to continue working with Murphy on issues affecting West Chicago.

The commission's other five seats went to Republicans with incumbents holding their posts in districts 1, 2 and 3 and newcomers winning seats in districts 4 and 5 where no incumbents were seeking re-election.

"I think it's just going to be six people learning to work together under a new regime, especially since there will soon be a new executive director," Burns said.

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Former director Brent Manning resigned earlier this year.

Burns will replace Commissioner Roger Kotecki, who chose not to run for re-election after serving 20 years in office.

Republican incumbents in Districts 1, 2 and 3 staved off their Democratic challengers. District 1 Commissioner Marsha Murphy of Addison garnered roughly 54 percent of the vote in defeating Democrat Michael Braun, also of Addison; District 2 incumbent Joseph Cantore of Oak Brook collected 55 percent of the vote over Democrat Don Kirchenberg of Downers Grove; and Republican Linda Painter of Hinsdale received almost 58 percent of votes in her race with Steven Leopoldo of Darien.

While no incumbents competed in Districts 4 and 5, unofficial results showed District 4 Republican Tim Whelan with almost 59 percent of the votes in his race with Democrat Robert Flesvig. Both men are from Wheaton.

In District 5, Republican Mary Lou Wehrli of Naperville amassed 55 percent of votes against Democrat Dennis Clark of Winfield.

Cantore has served on the commission for a decade, while Murphy has served two terms and Painter was first elected in 2008.


The winners in Districts 4 and 5 will replace incumbents Michael Formento and Carl Shultz, who lost in the spring primaries.

Marsha Murphy said her third term will focus on continuing the district's "excellent financial condition" and positive bond ratings.

In District 2, Cantore said he believes the district is on the right course and his goal is to continue its mission and projects like the new Urban Stream Research Center and archery range at Blackwell Forest Preserve near Warrenville.

Painter said she plans to focus her next District 3 term on how to preserve DuPage's forests for future generations.

Fiscal responsibility will be key during Whelan's term in District 4, he said, specifically through strategic planning.

Wehrli said her top priority in District 5 is transparency, and she advocates for live web streaming and TV broadcasts of commission meetings, as well as having commission meetings at night so more citizens can attend.

The terms in all six districts will be either two or four years.

With the exception of the chairman's post, all county board seats were up for election Tuesday. That's because once every 10 years, the county redraws district boundaries based on the latest U.S. Census results. Next, the county board will hold a lottery to determine which three seats will start with 4-year terms, and which will have 2-year terms.

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