LOMBARD — Conversation at a candidate forum in mid-February, featuring candidates for the village president and Village Board of Trustees, centered around Lombard's supposed divided board - at least according to the individuals trying to win seats on that same board.
On Feb. 13, Lombard's League of Women Voters and the American Association of University Women hosted a candidate forum at Village Hall to allow residents to learn about the people running for elected office this spring. In addition to trustee and village president candidates, there was participation from the village clerk, Lombard Park District Board and Helen Plum Library Board candidates.
Much attention in this election is directed at the village president seat, as Lombardians are eager to see who will come into the position following the late Bill Mueller's 19 years of service.
John Novak, Moon Khan and Keith Giagnorio are the candidates for village president.
Novak, a long-time Lombard resident and former DuPage County Treasurer, said his decision to run was influenced by the current board's inability to quickly and efficiently appoint an acting village president following the death of Mueller.
"I was at first embarrassed," Novak said. "Like many of you, I heard the conversations around the village, read the newspaper coverage and started getting calls from concerned friends. With the third meeting and the compromise still lacking a single leader, I wondered if there was something that needed fixing."
Khan, who was born in India, is a former York Township trustee. For the April 9 election, he has publicly partnered with District 3 trustee candidate Muzammil Saeed, and village clerk candidate Deanne Theodore.
During the forum, Khan also spoke out against a divide that has formed along the current Village Board and said the balance of the board needs to be changed.
He spoke in favor of preserving open space land at the village's Ken Loch Golf Course site — another hot topic of discussion for candidates — and expressed a desire to bring diversity to the board.
The third village president candidate and current District 2 trustee, Keith Giagnorio, spoke more optimistically about the current state of the village, although he did say that the board needed to restore unity.
"I want Lombardians to feel confident in our board and be able to trust that they are working and cooperating in the village's best interest," he said.
Giagnorio, a 28-year Lombard resident and owner of Gianorio's Pizza in town, also voiced his opposition to developing the Ken Loch site and denounced any plans to privatize the village's ambulance services.
The three candidates for the village's District 1, which includes downtown Lombard, also had the opportunity to present during the forum. Current trustee Greg Gron is being opposed by Dan Whittington, downtown Lombard volunteer, and Deborah Messineo-Jones, who comes with a background in biochemical research.
Gron said one of his objectives as trustee in District 1 would be to continue work on flood remediation in the area. It's a project that has made strides in recent years, but still needs improvements, he said.
Much of Whittington's agenda focuses on economic development for the community, especially in the downtown district.
Messineo-Jones said as trustee she hopes, among other things, work to improve the water conditions at Terrace View Pond.
In District 3, current trustee Zach Wilson is up for reelection and is running against Muzammil Saeed and Reid Foltyniewicz.
During his presentation, Wilson shot down many of the allegations circulating throughout the village about a divided board.
"There's been a lot of talk about the factions on the board," he said. "I'm very proud of the board and the people I work with."
Wilson has a background in law enforcement and now works as a private practice attorney.
Saeed, grew up in Lombard and graduated from Glenbard East. Almost four years ago, he moved back to the community with his wife and children; many of his family members live in the area. He is a dentist who said he wants to serve on the board to help maintain and preserve the town.
"I want to see a great quality of life for all of our residents, from the very young all the way through our senior citizens," he said.
Reid Foltyniewicz is a lifelong resident of Lombard and officer with the Oak Brook Police Department.
He said he favors keeping Ken Loch Golf Course open space land, he opposes privatizing the Lombard Fire Department and wants to work to boost morale in town.
"(My wife) and I always discussed running for local politics someday," he said. "After a disastrous 2012 for the board, we knew something had to change."
In District 6, current trustee Bill Ware is running uncontested. He has lived in town for 21 years and is also serving as acting village president until the spring election.
"It's my pleasure to serve the village and its residents as your trustee in District 6 and I look forward to continuing to serve Lombard and the residents of District 6," he said.
The two candidate for village clerk, Deanne Theodore and Sharon Kuderna also made presentations during the forum.