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Shnay: Board members’ retirement marks end of era in Park Forest

BonitDillard

Bonita Dillard

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Updated: January 3, 2013 6:13AM



If you ever attended any village-wide celebration in Park Forest you probably bumped into Ken Kramer. For 26 years, longer than anyone else in village history, Kramer has served as a member of the Park Forest Board of Trustees.

If you’ve ever been to a neighborhood meeting, where Park Forest residents and board members discuss problems and solutions on a block-by-block level, you’ve probably seen Bonita Dillard listening carefully to what the citizenry has to say. She’s been a trustee since 1999.

One cannot imagine a board meeting without their presence, but that’s what will happen next April. Both Kramer and Dillard decided not to run for re-election next April, opening the doors to a new era in Park Forest government.

If there was one word to describe Kramer it would be “precise.” He is a careful reader when it comes to village business. Both a misspelled word in the minutes of a meeting and the small print in complicated village finances get his attention.

You get that way, we suppose, if you have spent your adult working life as an analytical chemist, studying the specific identification and exact measurement of chemical compounds.

“I guess I’m just a nit-pickier,” Kramer said with a smile, pointing to a caricature portrait of himself with that title — nitpicker — emblazoned at the bottom. It was presented to him when he retired from Amoco Oil in 1989.

Along with his local nonpartisan efforts for Park Forest, Kramer was a Monee Township Republican precinct captain, but always was able to separate one from the other.

Bonita and Roy Dillard moved to Park Forest in 1968 and were among the first hundred or so black families to come to the village.

Where others might have taken a more public path in the village, Bonita Dillard maintained a lower profile, first as a schoolteacher and after retirement, working on boards and commissions, neighborhood groups and civic clubs.

Appointed to the board in 1999, Dillard later ran and won election on her own merits three other times.

She points with pride to her work to save the Park Forest Health Department when its future was questioned by former Trustee Ron Wilson in the middle of the last decade. She was also a leader in working with the Illinois Municipal League program on educating elected officials about the problems faced by local governments.

Both Kramer and Dillard have two adult children, and both cite family as reasons for leaving the board. Kramer cares for his beloved wife Sue, who suffered a stroke two years ago. Dillard says she “has some family things I’d like to do and I can’t do both at the same time.”

As far as advice to their successors goes, each said the same thing in different ways.

“You have to read carefully and know what is going on,” Kramer said, “and you can’t overspend.”

Dillard cautions that “you have to understand that things do not change quickly; that there is a process to work through to set long-term and short-term goals.”

The two trustees drew praise from Park Forest Mayor John Ostenburg, who said “each is a strong supporter of the ideal of what Park Forest is all about. The legacy of the two will be their strong levels of involvement in the community. I will miss both of them.”

There have been past elections in Park Forest when an incumbent faced little challenge. Not this time around.

There are three seats on the board up for election, and the only trustee running for re-election is Robert McCray. As of last Monday there were 17 potential candidates who took out election petitions.

How many file the necessary signatures three weeks from now remains to be seen, but it looks as if Park Forest will have its wildest election in history.



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