River Forest trustees have made decisions about their plans for the upcoming April 2019, when three spots will open on the board.
Trustee Michael Gibbs will run for re-election; trustees Susan Conti and Carmela Corsini have announced they will not.
Gibbs, an elevator inspector and salesman who is aiming for this third term on the Board of Trustees, said he wants to finish the work he started with the recently approved developments at Lake and Lathrop and at Chicago and Harlem.
“I want to see the concrete being poured and shove in the dirt, all that stuff. We made a pledge to the neighbors, to the citizens, and I want to be around to be held responsible,” Gibbs said.
He called the senior home development at Chicago and Harlem a “big thing,” saying that the development will provide a helpful source of revenue outside of property taxes. Once built, the village estimated the development will be the third-largest property tax generator in River Forest. Gibbs named finding revenue sources outside of property taxes as the greatest challenge the village faces.
“Shy of pickpocketing people as they go through Jewel, we gotta do everything we can to not rely solely on property taxes,” he said.
With Conti and Corsini leaving the board, Gibbs called himself the “tribal elder,” noting that he holds the most institutional knowledge of all the trustees. He said he’s going to wait to campaign because he feels the election cycle is too long for a small town where “everybody knows everybody.”
“In the past, I’ve been criticized for being happy with the status quo because River Forest has the reputation of being stodgy compared to our more liberal neighbor to the east. But I don’t think it’s a bad thing. In the past, River Foresters haven’t worn their politics on their sleeve,” Gibbs said.
With her children graduating college and high school next year, Corsini, a retired assistant village administrator and finance director, said she will leave the post at the end of her second term in April.
“After a lot of soul-searching and just conversations with my family, I think I’m at a good transition point,” she said.
Corsini named updating the village’s comprehensive plan as “big,” and also said she was proud of the Safe Routes to school traffic survey the village was completing. She believes her biggest contribution to the board is getting the village’s fiscal house in order — the village’s bond rating recently increased to AAA and its annual budget and audits have won many awards, she said. With the upcoming retirement of Finance Director Joan Rock, Corsini said it would be good if the next trustee had a financial background.
“Our finances are strong; we’ve really built up some good reserves, instituted a lot of policies and procedures that have helped us get there,” she said.
She said the greatest challenge the village faces is the unreliable state of Illinois finances.
“The greatest challenge is always going to be the fact that the state of Illinois is in such terrible financial condition. It really trickles down to municipalities,” Corsini said. “There’s always unfunded mandates, always legislation they push that is not good for us and, being that we’re non-home rule, a lot of times we don’t have a choice to fight against that.”
After 14 years in the post, Conti, a former trader and current building manager, said she will not seek re-election this April.
“It’s been a really fascinating experience. Every year has been different; it’s a great opportunity and a privilege to serve,” Conti said.
She named getting the developments at Lake and Lathrop and at Chicago and Harlem off the ground as the greatest challenge the village faces, stressing their importance because they help stabilize the village’s tax base.
“It would be nice if the next [trustee] had some good financial expertise. Even though municipal finances are kind of a singular animal, you need to have financial acumen,” Conti said. “And just being able to listen carefully, and get all the information you can before voting or making decisions. It doesn’t take a particular skill set to be a trustee, but there is a learning curve and you have to pay attention, do your homework and have an open mind.”