River Forest’s new park district commissioners will take a cautious, but measured, approach to their new roles after they sworn in early next month. 

In interviews conducted two days after their election, Lynn Libera and Cheryl Cargie said they do not intend to forge coalitions on policy and direction with like-minded commissioners. They view themselves and their fellow commissioners as independent. 

“We will act as individuals, we have a similar way of thinking … and similar agendas. “We have the same mind-set,” Cargie said. 

Unofficial totals after the April 4 election showed that Libera came out on top with 810 votes; Cargie came in second with 809. Calvin Davis received 612 votes and came in third. Gerald Dombrowski got 470 votes and came in fourth. Two six-year terms were in play in the election.

“It’s exciting to … steer the park district in a direction people want to go,” said Cargie.

Libera and Cargie said they will take the same approach that they discussed during the campaign: accountability and more communication the public. Not everything will be rubber-stamped, Cargie said. 

“I want to make sure there’s more transparency on decisions,” she said.

Libera said she doesn’t want to micro-manage.

“I’m not going to take things necessarily at face value without poking at this a bit,” Libera said. “I’ll be wondering why staff has come up with a recommendation and ask for more due diligence than has been done in the past.”

That due diligence will start with results from the park district survey over the agency’s direction. Cargie and Libera want to see the district to forge a strategic plan that matches residents’ needs and wants. Results are expected to be unveiled at the park board’s meeting on April 24. 

“We don’t know if they want a gym, we don’t know if they want to reorient the platform tennis courts. The survey will guide us first,” Cargie said.

The survey, Libera said, is coming at a wonderful time as there is no better way to get a full feel for needs and interests. 

There could have been a different outcome on the platform tennis courts had they gauged the potential popularity of the sport. Both are avid players and wanted to see a different outcome on the decision concerning the orientation of the new courts that will be built this year.

“The park board did not see that. I think it was a miss,” she said. 

Cargie said she might consider bringing the decision up again. 

“I have no problem asking about it. I would like to learn the correct procedures for how to bring things to the board,” she said. 

Libera said she could live with the commissioners’ decision, but thought it was drastically wrong.

Both will do some park board orientation sessions with Executive Director Mike Sletten and board President Ross Roloff fairly soon. 

Libera also wants to delve into the history of past discussions between the River Forest Community Center and the park district. Ann Dwyer, a member of the center’s board, broached Roloff with the idea of offering more opportunities to use the facility. She favored collaboration on this. 

Cargie said she didn’t need to rehash the history; her husband Tom was on the park board at the time. 

“We absolutely should be [collaborating]. We should find a way of working together,” Cargie said. “Perhaps we could help spruce up the building and make it a nicer place.” 

While they want to settle in before making suggestions, they do have ideas they’d like park commissioners to consider. Cargie would like to see the park district use social media more and see items, such as the program catalogue, posted online. 

Libera would like to see the park district undertake a study on the use of artificial turf to see it would be safe to install in some parks. The use of the turf, proposed by Dombrowski during the campaign, in the past has raised concerns over an increase in heat stress, injuries and infections and exposure to the chemicals that are used in the manufacture of the surface.

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