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Village Vision News

Mayor Johnson to seek another term

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Two incumbents and a newcomer file for trustee

The notice calling for candidate petitions went out to the public back in September with a filing period that ran from December 12–19, 2016, in advance of the Consolidated Election to be held April 4, 2017. The seats are for mayor and three trustee positions; all are four-year terms.

Mayor Marilyn Johnson will run unopposed for the mayor’s spot, while two incumbents and a newcomer filed as trustee candidates. Steve Hubbard, who currently serves as trustee, has chosen not to run for re-election.

Even if there isn’t likely to be any mystery to April’s election, given that Johnson will face no opposition and there are three candidates running for three trustee seats, there will still be an election. Part of the reason is that it remains the right of voters to have the opportunity to cast their votes, in addition to having the option of voting for a write-in candidate.

Johnson seeks re-election

Johnson, who has served the Village for 20 years, the last three-plus years as mayor beginning in 2013, said she is running again because there is still work to be done. Add to that the fact that she believes she still has something to contribute and has a love for her community.

“It has been a pleasure,” Johnson said. “I’ve enjoyed working with and talking to residents, and I really care about Forsyth.”

Johnson said the possibility of building a community center, a topic that’s been discussed for years, is another draw for her to continue serving.

“I’m very interested in being part of that and seeing the direction that project goes,” Johnson said of the community center.

Johnson said one of her goals is to see more activity in the parks, making specific mention of two successful annual events — Family Fest and the Christmas Tree-lighting event.

“Bringing the community together is something that’s important to me,” Johnson said.

First-timer Kerry Denison

Kerry Denison was inspired to run for trustee after getting some experience serving on the newly formed Community Center Committee.

The Forsyth resident and Decatur native is a graduate of the old Stephen Decatur High School that was located downtown. Denison, a retired nurse, attended Millikin University but didn’t finish his degree there.

“I was a research tech at A.E. Staley for 23 years and went back to school in my late 40s,” Denison said. He graduated with his bachelor’s degree in nursing at the age of 52 and worked as a nurse for about 10 years, mostly at Carle Hospital in Urbana.

Denison has never sought elective office before and said his reasons for running are more altruistic than political.

“I have no real political aspirations,” he said. “But, I have a strong feeling of wanting to give back. Life’s been good to me, and being retired, I was looking for ways to give back.”

Denison said he also plans to return to some part-time nursing work, but he said he will have plenty of time for serving as a trustee. Denison is interested in the public service aspect of the position.

“I’m not a guy to sit around,” he said.

Incumbent David Wendt

David Wendt, who was elected in 2013, has liked what he’s seen from the current board over the last few years, and there are a number of areas he wants to focus on going forward.

“I think we have our board working well with Village staff and each other,” Wendt said. “We’ve been able to maintain and improve the Village’s financial situation in the past four years by paying off debt, getting better organized with Village financials, solidifying our reserves and keeping the property tax levy flat.”

Wendt said bringing new events to the Village like the ASA softball tournaments, BassMasters and the disc golf tournament have added “an economic impact to the benefit of our community.”

Wendt said that improvements to the Family Fest parade and related events, in addition to adding the Christmas Tree-lighting night at the park, have helped bring residents together and heightened a sense of community.

Wendt’s goals for the future include ensuring that the Village’s financial situation remains strong, in part by working with the mall and area businesses to keep economic activity moving.

“I want to continue the work toward amenities such as the community center project that will fulfill what residents are looking for in activities without being a financial drain on the community,” Wendt said. “And, I want to continue the good relationships and working environment that we have achieved within the Village, as well as with area organizations like the DACVB, EDC, City of Decatur and others.”

Wendt added that with a focus on strong economic activity, he’d like to make sure that the currently vacant community and economic development coordinator position is filled to help provide a needed resource to assist Village Administrator David Strohl and Village Hall staff.

Incumbent Bob Gruenewald

Bob Gruenewald has also been a trustee since 2013. He said it’s been his pleasure to serve with the mayor and fellow trustees, and he said he’s grateful for the support that allowed him to be elected to serve four years ago.

“We have a wonderful village,” Gruenewald said. “We should strive to maintain that family-friendly environment as the Village grows with residences and businesses.”

He gave credit to trustees for having contributed to balanced budgets, no property tax levy increases, support of library building improvements, and support of economic development of office buildings, a strip mall, a hotel, restaurants and new businesses.

Specific amenities that Gruenewald helped lead the implementation of include: a sidewalk in the park from the main pavilion parking south to Diamond No. 3, which he said makes it easier to walk between ball diamonds and the playground/pavilion; the park’s new disc golf course, including coordinating the inaugural Forsyth Disc Golf Open tournament, with the second tournament already slated for July 29–30 2017; and leading the Community Center Committee as it pursues a community center for the Village.

Gruenewald’s future goals for the Village include a community center that meets the desires of residents, residential development at Prairie Winds, a grocery store, more restaurants and businesses, more community events in the park and improvements to the Route 51 corridor.

For 40 years, Gruenewald has been involved in some aspect of public service, calling it a great way to help organizations and communities advance.

“I have always felt an obligation to serve others with public service,” he said. “The Forsyth Village Board has worked well together under the leadership of our mayor, and I encourage others in our community to look for opportunities to get involved.”

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