Tuesday night’s Village Board meeting marked the retirement of yet another long-standing volunteer, Trustee Charlie Wachs. Having grown up in Long Grove, Charlie can tell stories of riding a pony to Kildeer school, and remembers our Village when it only had 500 residents and everyone knew each other. He has raised his family here, and been a supporter of many community activities including serving on the Board of Trustees for eight years, from 2007-2015. Charlie has put in countless hours as the head of our Infrastructure and Public Works committees. He has also been a long-term member of the Pathways committee, which is where I first became acquainted with Charlie. Scouting out potential path connections, no trail or mud-filled underpass could be too rough for Charlie! He has been instrumental in many of the positive changes in recent years that have set the stage for the revitalization of our downtown and our infrastructure. Under his guidance our TIF district was established, along with Sunset Grove, the renovated Archer parking lot and building pads, the Village water plant, and many other improvements. With gratitude, Charlie was thanked for his gift of time, expertise, and caring, to make his hometown a better place for us all.
One important thing that I can do to help others as Village President is to lend my voice in support of worthy causes. Lung cancer is a disease that has affected members of my community and my own family. Today was the annual Breathe Deep North Shore 5K run, walk, and balloon launch event held in Deerfield to support LUNGevity Foundation and the fight against lung cancer. I joined together with 18 fellow Mayors and Village Presidents from the northern suburbs to jointly proclaim today Breathe Deep North Shore Day, and bring awareness to this cause. Did you know that 1 in 14 Americans is diagnosed with lung cancer in their lifetime? Or that lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death, taking more lives than breast, prostate, and colorectal cancers combined? These are pretty sobering statistics. Fortunately, groups such as LUNGevity are working hard to raise funds to have an immediate impact on increasing the quality of life and survivorship of people with lung cancer by accelerating research into early detection and more effective treatments. By providing community, support, and education for all those affected by this disease, we can all make a difference in the fight against lung cancer. It is an honor, to play my small part in helping this succeed.
Our Village faces a number of challenges in the months ahead, and two of them involve building bridges. In the literal sense, we are weighing options and facts regarding the decision to either replace our iconic covered bridge as is, or expand it to two lanes. Metaphorically speaking, our Village needs to heal and find a way to work together after the arguments and accusations of the recent contentious election. Both challenges are going to require a lot of work, a lot of patience and listening to others, a lot of putting aside of ego to do what is in the best interest of all the residents, and a lot of trust.
Trust needs a firm foundation on which to be built, as does a bridge. And in the case of trust, that foundation starts with respect. It takes a big person to put aside divisive rhetoric, forgive, and in turn respect someone who has criticized you publicly. Every member of the Village Board is going to have to be that person.
In the case of our covered bridge repairs, the Board will need to keep listening to our Village engineers as they evaluate costs and details, particularly as they relate to the use of federal funds. But more importantly, we need to seek a better understanding from our residents on what they truly value. A member of the Historical Society told me recently that she loves the one-lane aspect of the bridge because visitors crossing into our town, “get a moment to pause, take a breath, and realize that they are entering someplace special.” Is monetary cost the only consideration?
I have confidence that with thoughtful input from our residents and engineers, the new Board will be able to realize the best direction to take on the re-building of our covered bridge. I also believe that it is possible to reconcile, collaborate, and support one another as members of a team who solve problems, get things accomplished, and respect one another. Being born and raised in a small, mid-western farming town means that I am not afraid of a challenge, adversity, or hard work. This spring and summer, I am planning to roll up my sleeves and build some bridges. And I truly hope that the residents of Long Grove will be right there, too.
The Long Grove Park District held their second annual “For the Birds” event this past weekend at Reed-Turner Woodland. Mother Nature herself cooperated, and served up nearly perfect weather for hiking and observing our native wildflowers and birds. A birdhouse competition was held, with many creative and clever entries crafted by a variety of residents vying for the grand-prize title. The culmination of the event was a reception held today, to honor three special Village volunteers. Harvey Lease, Bob Borg, and Lee Bassett were celebrated for the many contributions that they have made to Long Grove through service to the Park District, Historical Society, and Village government. I have known these men for years in working together with them on the Historical Society Board, and both Bob and Lee have served for many years on the Conservancy and Scenic Corridor Commission for the Village. But the Park District knows them best as “Teasel Masters.” Bob, Lee and Harvey have put in numerous hours as stewards to the Reed-Turner Woodland, and are known throughout the community for their passion towards eradicating (or at least trying to control) this invasive species. Sadly, Bob Borg passed away earlier this month, and he will be greatly missed by all those in our town whom he has touched over the years.
But the legacy of Bob’s volunteer service (and that of Lee and Harvey as well) lives on, and I hope that it can serve as an inspiration to our current residents. In Lee’s remarks today, he touched on the fact that Long Grove has long been a community that greatly relies on volunteers. Past Village President Maria Rodriguez spoke about the importance for our community to pull together with one another and work cooperatively, as we have in recent years. Every day I see the results of so many residents, past and present, each doing what they can to make a difference. It was heartwarming today, to be surrounded by so many of the community leaders who are currently doing good works in a variety of areas–Arts & Music Council, Rotary, Lions Club, Historical Society, Park District, Village Board & Commissions, the list goes on….Maybe we can’t all be “Teasel Masters,” but we can let the volunteer spirit shown to us by Harvey, Lee, and Bob be an example for the generations to come.
I had been dreading last night’s Village Board meeting for months, because my favorite Trustee was retiring after 25 years of public service. But then I realized yesterday, I had actually been given a gift. Because out of the four different Village Presidents that Joe Barry has served under, I was the one who got the privilege of honoring him.
Joe started his Long Grove service as a member of the Ecology subcommittee of the Plan Commission in 1987. He then moved on to serve as a Plan Commissioner, Village Clerk, and Trustee, an office he has held since 1995. Joe has been instrumental in establishing so many great things in our Village over the years: our Tree Preservation Ordinance, many new subdivisions (including my neighborhood, Stonehaven), the Menards development, and Sunset Plaza just to name a few. But his real passion is for environmental concerns, with a special interest in seeing our Village Pathway system expanded. I first met Joe over 10 years ago when I joined the Pathways committee, and he relentlessly recruited me to join the Village Board. He has become my “elder statesman” not because of his age, but because of his wisdom and experience in all Long Grove matters. Whenever I need advice, I know that Joe is always willing to hit a local trail to walk and talk it out with me.
We all wish Joe the best in his retirement, and realize that he has left us with some very big shoes to fill. I know that I can count on seeing him around our open spaces for years to come, sporting his teasel backpack, spraying invasive species. Joe Barry is one of those special people who just enriches your life by being a part of it. And we are so grateful that he has chosen to enrich the lives of everyone in Long Grove for the past 25 years!
The ladies of the Long Grove Historical Society met for afternoon tea over the recent holidays, and we enjoyed a most delightful and interesting conversation. One of the topics that came up was unusual and distinctive pets. One of the ladies in our group has a giant snake living in her house (I won’t reveal who) that she claims belongs to her son. Another had a pet frog named Cynthia, who lived so long she became like a beloved member of the family. Members of the society have also been known to harbor chickens and goats in their Long Grove yards in past years. But as the conversation meandered (as conversations do), it was fun to reminisce about a couple of special pets that really belonged to the entire town of Long Grove. I’m classifying them as legendary. So without further ado, I give you:
Tramp, the Dog
Helen Young has lived in Long Grove now for many decades, and she remembers Tramp from the years when her children were small. He lived with a family somewhere off of Cuba Road, and had a regular routine that made him well-known throughout the Village. He would wait with the children at the bus stop until they took off for Kildeer School in the morning. Then Tramp would start his rounds. He had several daily stops at various shops in the downtown crossroads, and merchants who knew Tramp would give him scraps and treats at each location. He was known to have several canine friends of the female persuasion, and legend has it that Tramp had numerous offspring in the area as a result of his popularity. When the school bus returned with the kids at the end of the day, Tramp would be faithfully waiting at the stop.
Drexler, the Cat
In 1998, I brought my young kids along when I made my first trip to Village Hall to pick up our “new resident packet.” They were thrilled to discover that we had a town cat! His name was Drexler, a reference to historic Drexler Tavern, which was the first incarnation of the building now known as Village Hall. Drexler was original to the area, having wandered over from a neighboring property. He apparently decided that he preferred to hunt near Village Hall, and since the old building had more than a few extra mice, he was tolerated, and eventually cared for by the Village staff. Historical Society member Kathy Wiberg remembers taking pity on him on more than one very cold winter holiday weekend, as he preferred to live outside. Drexler had a relatively short life, and was followed by a “Drexler 2,” but despite my dropping several hints, we do not have a current Village cat. You would think that as Village President I could wield some powerful influence on this—but no, I guess times have changed. However, if another Drexler just showed up one of these days….
Since I happen to be traveling in Austria at the moment, I thought I should create a post with a little bit of European flair. And some history thrown in for good measure, too! I took this picture of a beautiful old-world building back in 2012, while traveling in the Alsace-Lorraine region of France. The original settlers of Long Grove emigrated from this small town of Muttersholtz (“Mother’s Wood” in English) in the mid 1800’s, and originally named our town after their ancestral home, which was part of Germany at the time. Legend has it that they picked our area because the “Long Grove” of trees reminded them of the terrain back home. The original postmaster in town, a man by the name of Sigwalt, is credited with first registering the name. However, as time went on the residents desired an English name, so Long Grove was chosen. Today, the European town of Muttersholtz is a quaint French village, surrounded by mountains. Many of the restored homes appeared to have originally had attached barns, speaking to the farming ways of old. It features a central crossroads just like our Village, and some sleepy picturesque buildings, mostly residential. It did feel like a place that could be a sister city to Long Grove. We stopped by the Mayor’s office (even though I was only a Trustee at the time) and though I speak no French and they spoke little English, we still managed to communicate. They had no idea that there is a town in America that used to be known as Muttersholtz.
It has been suggested that I write about a typical day in my job as Village President. I have been mulling this over for some time now, because truthfully, no day in this job is typical. Many of my activities are exactly what you would expect: attending meetings, interacting with staff and county officials, dealing with resident complaints. But this past December, I had a day in which I was reminded three times over of the very best part of my job. Meeting with residents one-on-one, getting to know them, and working together with them to solve problems or implement new ideas is what I truly love. Whether old or young or in-between, our residents never fail to inspire me, to remind me of the reasons to persevere, and to give me hope for the future.
My day started out by paying a visit to one of my favorite long-time residents, Barbara Turner. Barbara is familiar to most of us as the namesake of Reed-Turner Woodland, and the force behind the ongoing stewardship of this treasure, as part of the Long Grove Park District. Over coffee and cookies, I had a chance to learn a little bit more about Barbara’s background, and her thoughts on some current challenges.
In addition to her environmental work, Barbara has always been interested in history and books. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Art History, and a Masters in Library Science from Rosary College in River Forest. For her independent project to qualify for her Masters, Barbara did a multi-media study in Long Grove history, parts of which were incorporated into the book “Long Grove Lore and Legend,” which she co-wrote with Virginia Park. Barbara worked for many years as a librarian at Kildeer School, and served as the curator of the Long Grove Historical Society along with Dorie Hoyne.
Our conversation also included some of the recent changes in Long Grove, and those coming in the near future. Barbara has been mindful of the upcoming widening planned for the downtown crossroads, and is grateful that none of the historic buildings will be lost on this “unique country corner.” Her love for the character of our Village is apparent.
Even though Barbara is in her 90’s now, she still makes it a priority to keep up with current events in Long Grove, and mentioned to me that she misses not being able to attend Village Board meetings as she had in the past. I, for one, can say that Barbara is always present, as an inspiration to me.
My day continued on to a lunch meeting at Smokin’ T’s with our municipal representative from Com Ed, Darren Boundy. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Darren and his family live right here in Long Grove, and that he grew up in Central Illinois in a farming town not far from my own hometown. After discussing ways in which our two agencies can work even more efficiently together, Darren had one more surprise for me–a pink hard hat! Worn by the Com Ed crews in October, these hats showed support and solidarity with all those affected by breast cancer. A meaningful memento, to be sure.
To round out the day, I had the honor of presiding over a special Village Board meeting that afternoon, at Reed-Turner Nature Center. Eight students from the University of Illinois drove up from Champaign to give a final presentation on a semester-long project. Some background on this….Sam Quinn, a resident who is a Senior at U of I contacted me over the summer with an idea. He is a member of Illinois Business Consulting (IBC), a student consulting organization which undertakes projects for Fortune 500 companies, middle market, and non-profit clients. Sam wanted to know if he could do something to help revitalize our historic downtown, and if the Village would be willing to participate in a project with his student organization to explore some ways to do this. During the Fall semester, a series of meetings and weekly conference calls resulted in an area-wide survey. An analysis of the results was done to understand the market demand and potential, with final recommendations to the Village on actions to increase our business district appeal.
Working with these students was a joy. But more importantly, it gives me hope. Not just for the future of our downtown shops & restaurants, which of course I want to see flourish. But for our community. Because if young adults like Sam have enough passion and concern about our Village that they are willing to get involved, in whichever way they can, then how can we not be optimistic about the years to come?