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By Ben Meyerson
After four years of spearheading spirited and often rancorous debates, the River Forest village board's two minority trustees, Steve Hoke and Steve Dudek, are leaving. Neither filed petitions to run for one of the three openings on the board by the deadline Monday night.
Both had been vague about whether or not they would run but had hinted they might not be back. Dudek publicly said he wouldn't be back at a meeting this summer, then backed off when asked about it.
Neither had much success pushing ideas through this year; only a handful of minor items presented gained any support at all.
They typically played the role of vocal opponent instead, often slowing debate to a crawl and spawning contentious shouting matches.
Trustee Jim Winikates said that without Hoke and Dudek on the board, debate should be much more civil, but it won't affect the way the village conducts its business.
"The meetings will certainly be shorter," Winikates said. "To tell you the truth, there won't be much difference in what gets done. I don't think they've done much but impede. ... People on the board will still challenge things; that's not going to go away."
A slate of three people, led by incumbent Trustee Susan Conti, have filed for the three open seats on the board. They'll run unopposed.
Trustee Mike Gibbs said he's hoping for a more positive atmosphere in the spring, when the new board takes shape.
"I'm looking forward to the next board being able to look across the table and have conversations without getting destructive in the way they talk to each other," Gibbs said. "People can have differing opinions without having to go at each other's throats."
Colleen Horrigan, a lifelong River Forest resident, is running with Conti and Carmela Corsini, who works as assistant to the village manager in Elmwood Park.
Horrigan served with Dudek on the River Forest park board until 2005, and said she had a good working relationship with him.
"I know we had differences of opinion at times, but it didn't become a major issue when I was there," she said. "It wasn't as divisive as the village board is now."
With Conti and Corsini, Horrigan thinks they have a good chance of reducing the contentiousness that characterizes the board now.
"Susan Conti has done a great job on the board, and Carmela is a terrific expert of local government," Horrigan said last week, before the filings were final. "Hopefully, if the three of us get up there together, it'll work well."
Neither Hoke nor Dudek returned calls from Wednesday Journal as of press time on Tuesday.
This story has been corrected from a previous version that appeared online and in print to reflect that Carmela Corsini is assistant to the village manager in Elmwood Park.