Carl Schultz: Candidate profile
Office sought: DuPage Forest Preserve Commission, District 5
Family: Married with two children
Education: Bachelor's from University of Illinois in ornamental horticulture
Civic involvement: Friends of the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County Board member; DuPage County Zoning Board of Appeals board member
Elected offices held: Forest preserve commissioner, 2002 -- 2012; Naperville Township trustee, 2017
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?
It is my life's work to connect people and nature. As commissioner, I added dozens of acres of land, built trails, opened a dog park, improved natural resources, provided funds for the bridge replacement and trail realignment in McDowell Grove, and more.
Districtwide, I served as treasurer, co-chaired the St. James Farm committee, created the district's Friends foundation that has raised more than $1 million, and took up the cause to open the Greene Barn to the public when no other commissioner was interested. I raised public awareness and completed the first phase of the barn restoration under budget.
In the seven years since I was commissioner, District 5 has not had an effective voice. There have been no new trails, educational or recreational facilities. The handful of acres purchased was dwarfed by the lost opportunity to buy Country Lakes. That cost taxpayers 200-plus acres of crucial open space and $2.5 million. Now the $10.7 million set aside to purchase Country Lakes is not being spent in District 5. The other districts have moved forward. We need an effective voice so that District 5 can catch up.
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.
As commissioner, I will be what I was before, a strong team player who is not afraid to take the lead. I believe in the acronym TEAM -- Together Everyone Achieves More. Sometimes that means getting out in front to show the way. Sometimes it means getting out of the way to let others do what they do best. It always means having a passion for what you are doing and working hard to get it done.
Second, I will use my horticulture education, business background, life experience and previous time as commissioner to bring a unique perspective to the board. Helping others best experience nature in their own yard at an affordable price is, in essence, what the forest preserve district does.
3. What role should the forest preserve play in preserving historic buildings on its land?
The forest preserve district should always take the lead in what it does with what it has.
Regarding historic buildings, if we own it and plan on keeping it, we should maintain it. We would be much closer to opening the Greene Barn to the public if we didn't have to first repair the roof, replace rotted beams, fix a rotted floor and otherwise stabilize the building.
We should evaluate each building for how the district can best use it. This includes if it will meet district needs, if there is public interest, and if we can align a use to achieve our goals. In the case of the Greene Barn, we have established these things.
Finally, we should achieve what we set out to do. This hasn't happened at the Greene Barn. It has been over seven years since I finished Phase 1. Phase 2 is not in the district's Master Plan, which means it is not on the table for the next five years. We can and should do better than that. As commissioner, I will do better than that.
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?
In some cases, it is excellent. However, in the western third of District 5, it is poor. There is no direct access to the preserves west of Route 59. There are no educational or recreational facilities.
For example, the district's fishing guide promotes Poss Lake in Big Woods. It is tucked in behind some trees but there is no signage to identify its location. Thousands drive by it without knowing it is there. The district provides no parking. Anyone going there has to park on a rutted wide spot on the Prairie Path behind a sign that says "No Motor Vehicles." To leave, you have to back up onto a busy road into oncoming traffic that you can't see because of the trees.
My approach would be to immediately evaluate the preserve needs of underserved communities. Then I would work to provide the necessary improvements so that all of our communities can enjoy a quality experience in our forest preserves.
5. What is the most important issue facing the forest preserves in your district and how should it be addressed?
It will be difficult to fulfill the district's strategic purpose of "providing opportunities for people to connect with nature" when half of District 5's population suffers from a severe lack of forest preserve land and has no direct access to the preserve land that is nearby. In fact, they have absolutely no educational facilities or recreational facilities at all. In the Master Plan, the forest preserve district is spending as much as $20 million for recreational and educational facilities. District 5 has only been assured of a quarter-mile access trail for a single subdivision. A commissioner will make as much compensation in a year or so as all of District 5 will receive in facilities over five years!
To address this problem I would 1) quickly purchase available land next to existing preserves, 2) create a "Forest Preserve To Go" program that would bring recreational and educational opportunities to underserved neighborhoods, and 3) work with staff to take a hard look at providing access and innovative solutions to meet the needs of the community.