CHAMPAIGN – A veteran member of the Champaign Park District board is being challenged in Tuesday's election by a local environmentalist.
Newt Dodds, a 35-year member of the park board, is being challenged by Rob Kanter, a 45-year-old writer and editor who is active in a number of local conservation groups.
The winner will serve a six-year term.
Dodds, 70, is president of Dodds Co., a general contracting firm that does industrial and commercial work. He said he enjoys working with other board members to improve local facilities while also striving to keep property tax rates low.
"Our tax base has doubled in the past 12 years," he said. "We've been blessed."
Dodds was the only board member to oppose a park board recommendation to the city council that developers of new subdivisions should be required to set aside a certain percentage of land for the park district. The city council is still considering the issue.
"I don't believe in mandatory land dedication," he said. "We have a very generous community. We don't need to demand property from people. Most of our land comes from gifts. Telling people they have to do it goes against my grain."
Kanter is a member of a number of local conservation groups, including the Prairie Rivers Network, the Grand Prairie Friends, the Champaign County Audubon Society and the East Central Illinois Master Naturalist Program.
The father of a 9-year-old son and 12-year-old daughter, Kanter said his family "has benefited enormously" from the park district and regularly uses both the Sholem and Spalding pools, the Virginia Theatre, West Side Park and Clark Park and also has participated in a number of park district programs.
"I see serving on the board as a way to give something back," he said. "I want to work to maintain an already excellent, exciting park district. I'm not running to change directions."
Kanter said he recognizes the park district needs to add park land to serve city residents. He said a land-cash donation ordinance "is a tool that might be used to accomplish that."
"But it's not the only way," he added.