By Joel Hall
In a special-election runoff close to the Forest Park general election, Avery Wilson and Linda Lord, the widow of former Ward 5 Councilman Wes Lord, will face each other for the right to serve the remainder of Wes Lord's four-year term.
The runoff is a result of the Sept. 18 special election, in which Wilson and Linda Lord emerged with the most votes out of three candidates. The polls will be open today from 7 a.m., to 7 p.m. at the Forest Park Recreation Center to determine the winner.
The candidate who wins will be required to run for the office again in the Nov. 6 election.
Both candidates have different motivations for running, however, both are interested in the redevelopment of Forest Park -- in particular, the economic opportunities that will arise with the closure of the Fort Gillem Army base.
Wilson, a former Marine and a veteran of the Gulf War, said he would like to see the redevelopment of the base create not only many jobs, but a variety of job types for Forest Park residents.
"I really want to help the citizens of Forest Park, because some of us are all right, but not everybody is all right," Wilson said. "I think the opportunities should go to the citizens of Forest Park. I would like to see a lot of entrepreneurial efforts."
A married father of two, Wilson moved to Forest Park twelve years ago to follow his church congregation, which had relocated there. While the church has been disbanded for several years, Wilson stayed in Forest Park, because he believed it was a good place to raise his family.
Wilson said that, if elected, a lot of his focus will be on creating mentoring opportunities for at-risk youths, assistance programs for senior citizens and widows living on Social Security, and creating incentives for public safety officers, so that they won't stray to other governments.
"I've always wanted to help people and I've always wanted to help the youth, so I thought that this would be a good conduit," said Wilson. "We can do a lot of preventative things on the front end about crime. I want to see how I can work with the existing council to try to get some more mentorship programs."
Linda Lord said her husband, Wes, who died earlier this summer, a few months shy of completing his four-year term, was viewed as a "hands-on" politician, who would try to help citizens with their day-to-day problems. She said she would like to carry on that tradition.
"He wanted citizens to feel like they are part of the city," said Lord. "The other projects are great and they look good and they are things we need, but those other things ... the day-to-day things ... that's how we earn our money. If someone has a problem, I want them to call me."
Lord said that she wanted to make Forest Park a destination spot, particularly focusing on the revitalization of Main Street.
"We need to make it a place that people will want to come here and shop, as opposed to going somewhere else."
While Lord said she felt the pressure of filling the shoes of her husband, she was encouraged by the people who knew her husband.
"I have lived in this ward for about 30 years," said Lord. "I've met the people, I know the people ... It makes you kind of nervous, thinking of it, but I know that [Wes] would tell me to give it my best shot," said Lord. "I do know what I'm getting into and I'm looking forward to it."