What to Keep

One of our wilder neighbors, caught hunting in our backyard conservancy area, in April of this year.

One of our wilder neighbors, caught hunting in our backyard conservancy area in April of this year.

Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of simplifying. It all started this spring, when I retired from the Village Board and found myself cleaning out six years worth of job related clutter–physical, mental, and the electronic variety. I’ve moved on now to closets, and in a five-bedroom house we have more than a few. With three children now grown and living on their own, I’m pretty sure we can live without the Middle School fashion statements and treasures hauled home from numerous college apartments. Fat clothes? If I haven’t worn them in five years, why in God’s name am I hanging on to them? Yes, the charity pickup trucks have been welcome at my doorstep this summer.

All this purging has gotten me thinking about scaling back my life in other ways. I am volunteering a little bit less these days, while still focusing my leadership efforts on causes and groups that I’m most passionate about. As empty nesters, my husband and I regularly discuss the pros and cons of downsizing our properties now that it’s just the two of us at the dinner table. But as we talk about what to get rid of, it always leads us back to what we want to keep.

We do have an affection for our house where we have raised our family, but the happy memories from the last nineteen years are what we will cherish. Houses come and go. Yet, it is the intangible part of Long Grove that has gotten hold of our hearts and keeps us rooted to this land and this community. Our neighbors have been a blessing, and although I know they too are having similar downsizing thoughts, collectively we love and have been loved by too many individuals in this community to be able to give that up anytime soon. Even though it is part of a larger suburban area, Long Grove has the soul of a small town, and my husband and I feel a very part of that fiber.

Besides our human ties, the other tether holding us to this particular spot on the globe is the beautiful nature that we are fortunate to be a part of on a daily basis. We are the lucky recipients and stewards of the majestic open spaces strewn throughout our Village, set aside by prior neighbors so that native flora and fauna could co-exist with us for years to come. Sightings of coyotes, fawns, monarchs and prairie orchid bring peacefulness and serenity, when we really take the time to notice it. As our future days unfold, this is the richness that we want to remain.

The opportunity to be up close with nature, coupled with small town charm and neighborly kindness is what drew us to Long Grove in the first place. It’s what we choose to keep.

Open space in Long Grove this time of year features many wildflowers and native prairie plants.

Our backyard view in Long Grove this time of year features many wildflowers and native prairie plants.

 

A “Mayberry” Moment

Longtime resident Barbara Turner, pictured in December of 2014.

Longtime resident Barbara Turner, pictured in December of 2014.

When you are a genuinely good person and live to be 98 years old, that in itself is a blessing. An additional result of having endeared yourself to so many people over the years is that you acquire many, many friends. A whole community of them, actually. And in a time of need, those friends can come together in the best sort of way. Recently, Long Grove experienced one such moment, in which citizens randomly pitched in to help longtime resident Barbara Turner enjoy her beloved Woodland again.

Barbara and her family are best known in Long Grove for the donation of the Reed-Turner Woodland, a 36 acre nature preserve just north of our historic downtown on Old McHenry Road. In the last year Barbara’s health has not allowed her to get outside and enjoy the beautiful open spaces right outside her home; even the porch has not been accessible due to a large step down. All that has been recently remedied, when a crew of local businessmen and resident volunteers showed up to build Barbara a ramp out to her screened-in area. Today, she is once again enjoying the bird songs and wildflowers. And despite the current heat & humidity–who doesn’t just crave a little fresh air now and then?

All this came about when several of Barbara’s friends tried coming up with ideas to get her back outside. The porch presented a challenge regarding the ramp design, which was finally solved by a local builder and contractor. Past and current elected officials helped design and organize the project, and waived the building fees. The local Lions Club helped out with building materials and labor, with assistance from a few handy members of the Historical Downtown Merchants Association and Historical Society. All of this could not have been done without the cooperation of the Long Grove Park District, which owns and maintains Barbara’s home as well as the entire Woodland preserve.

In our fast -paced modern world, it is easy to get caught up in the negative headlines and news feeds. It can seem discouraging that we live in a time and place where civility and human kindness take a back seat to being right and being in control. Witnessing everyone collaborate to help a beloved neighbor is an important reminder that by working jointly with others, great things can happen. Small town spirit is still alive in Long Grove! When we labor together, it’s a “win” for all of us.

Ramp construction underway!

Ramp construction underway!

Happy Flag Day!

Posing with Long Grove artist Marie Roth and the patriotic gift that she created for me.

Posing with Long Grove artist Marie Roth and the awesome patriotic gift that she created for me.

June 14th is flag day, but only one state–Pennsylvania–observes the occasion as a legal holiday. Another interesting bit of trivia that I recently ran across stated that Betsy Ross didn’t receive credit during her lifetime for sewing the first American flag in 1776. So to honor Old Glory and the talented women who create her (past and present), I am highlighting the story of a fantastic gift I recently received.

To thank me for my service as Village President, Long Grove artist and friend Marie Roth presented me with the beautiful painted wooden flag pictured above. Marie has been creating wooden renditions of the red, white and blue for many years now, and has quite a following. She was even recently featured in a national magazine! Marie’s flags are usually made out of reclaimed barn wood, and she is often on the lookout for old farm sites and other possible sources of wood with an interesting history. When she completes a flag Marie always includes a write-up about where the barn wood was found, and any stories she knows about the former owners.

What makes my flag so special is that it did not come from reclaimed barn wood, but instead, from wood that was once part of our Long Grove covered bridge! During my term of elected office the covered bridge has been hit and damaged many times (too many times!) by trucks and distracted drivers. During one of the many repairs, a pile of discarded and damaged boards was left by the side of the road and after several days Marie was alerted to the find. I have often coveted Marie’s flags, and even purchased a couple for gifts over the years. Now I am delighted to have a piece of Marie’s art and a piece of the covered bridge hanging in my home to remind me of the years spent representing our Village.

Speaking of the covered bridge, we are getting ever closer to having our local landmark on the National Register of Historic Places. I will be attending a meeting in Springfield later this month of the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, who will be reviewing our application and (hopefully) making a recommendation to the National Park Service for the official designation. Keep your fingers crossed!

Many Beautiful Rainbows

 

UPDATE: This photo was taken during our hike in Peru on April 30, 2017, five days after this blog post was originally published. Mother Nature provided the perfect illustration!

UPDATE: This photo was taken during our hike in Peru on April 30, 2017, five days after this blog post was originally published. Mother Nature provided the perfect illustration!

The following article appeared in the April edition of our Village of Long Grove newsletter, The Bridge. Tonight marks my last Village Board meeting. I will be taking a few weeks off from the blog to rest and recharge, but will resume later in May bringing you more stories of Life in Long Grove.

From the Village President, Angie Underwood, 2013-2017

It is with a deep sense of gratitude that I write to you this last time as your Village President. Representing Long Grove and serving each of you has been an honor. When your work is truly your passion, as mine has been these last six years volunteering for the Village Board, it feels more like a privilege than a job. Thank you for the valuable learning experiences, unique opportunities, and abundant good memories that I have to carry forward.

A sentiment that I love from poet and author Maya Angelou reminds us to always try to “be a rainbow in someone else’s cloud.” My term as Village President was mainly sunny but did feature the occasional clouds, a few of which were quite stormy. I have been blessed with many beautiful rainbows to support me through the rough weather. Our staff who never failed to welcome me with a smile at village hall, current and former elected officials who gave me advice and mentoring, friends and neighbors who listened and took me out for lunches and drinks to vent, downtown merchants who are now mutually respected colleagues, blog readers who reply with such positive feedback, and residents who have randomly emailed encouraging shout outs just when I needed it most–rainbows each and every one! The pot of gold at rainbow’s end is my family, who will now get more of my time and energy, and my husband Aaron, who is joining me soon on an adventure to take the high road in Peru.

I am proud of what our Village Board has accomplished these last four years as I have held the gavel, and I am confident that the new Trustees and President will continue to work hard in the years ahead for the best interests of our residents. Recently a friend asked me if I felt that holding elected office had been “worth it.” Helping the community that you live in, in big or little ways, is always worth it.

Love and Leadership

Former Village Clerk Heidi Locker-Scheer (with help from staff & trustees) created this thoughtful keepsake to honor my years of service to the Village.

Former Village Clerk Heidi Locker-Scheer (with help from staff & trustees) created this thoughtful keepsake to honor my years of service to the Village. Over the past four years I have received many thank-you notes and letters, which I keep in what I call my “folder of love.” When I’m having a bad day, I often look to these messages for inspiration. One of my favorites is from a 3rd Grader who attended a presentation I did for her class at Village Hall: “President Underwood, you sparkle!”

In honor of Valentine’s Day today, I would like to reflect on love and leadership. The thoughts below are taken from an article by Scott C. Paine, which appeared in the Illinois Municipal Review magazine in June of 2014:

As A Leader, Should You Inspire Fear–or Love?

Niccolo Machiavelli, in his advice to rulers, famously wrote that “it is better to be feared than loved.” His reasoning was simple: a leader cannot make others love him or her. Fear, however, can be induced. Consequently, for a leader who wants to be in control, fear is the more powerful tool. Fear, however, has a fundamental flaw. It relies on irrationality. It counts on subjects to respond emotionally, unthinkingly, to bullying and the threat of violence and pain. If one submits to another out of fear, that other is in control. But sooner or later, fear yields to reason and reason seeks an opportunity to turn the tables. That’s why tyrants so rarely die peacefully in their beds.

Still, a leader who seeks to be loved is not much better off than one who seeks to be feared, nor are the people that leader governs. Certainly the people suffer less from the direct actions of a leader who seeks love than one who seeks to be feared. But a leader who seeks to be loved will find, time and again, that concern for the feelings of constituent groups will lead to a series of compromises and concessions that may satisfy their short-term desires but do not serve their long-term interests. That’s the funny thing about our long-term interests. Rarely do we love everything about what is required to pursue them. Often, we must pay a price in the short run to achieve the long-term good. Not exactly a formula for being loved in the immediate moment, is it?

There is a third path. It is one that exists only for those who believe that, in the long run, most people most of the time will come to recognize good choices…and bad ones. Experience is a pretty good, though somewhat flawed, teacher. Most of us, because our life circumstances matter to us, are pretty good students. At least that’s what I believe. I also believe a leader can earn authentic love.

It’s an odd concept, I suppose, because love is normally associated with emotion and not an earned reward. But I don’t think that is the heart and soul of love. The heart and soul of love is knowing someone for who he or she really is, and recognizing that reality as a gift. Recognizing that gift, a gift to us, we love that person. We put up with failings and overlook limitations not foolishly or passionately, but deeply rationally and emotionally. Because there is a good reason for us to love someone who is, in fact, a gift to us.

Leaders who strive mightily to discover what is best for their people, then strive equally mightily to bring it to fruition, may earn our anger and resentment for a time. We may not like their actions and may resent their message. But over time, as what is truly good becomes clearer to us, we come to appreciate them more and more. We come to see their leadership as a gift to us. And we come to love them.

hearts

 

 

Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy!

Coming home from our workout today in the city, Waze navigation unexpectedly took us past Wrigley Field, where I snapped this shot of the crowds still rejoicing in the recent Cubs win!

Coming home from our workout today in the city, Waze navigation unexpectedly took us past Wrigley Field, where I snapped this shot of the crowds still rejoicing in the recent Cubs win!

Life in Long Grove has been happily dominated by a historic event this week–the clinching of the World Series by the Chicago Cubs! The collective joy this victory has spread among residents has made the past several days especially memorable. And while I know that not everyone in the Village is a Cubs fan, I do know that a significant number of Long Grovians were part of the estimated 5 million cheering fans lining the streets of Chicago yesterday for the victory parade. I had several appointments to keep so I chose to stick around town, but I did enjoy the uncharacteristic lack of traffic on the local roads as a result!

Where were you when you watched the Cubs break the 108 year “curse”? We were at the Village Tavern, at least for most of the game. The Chatterbox was another local gathering spot for cheering and knuckle-biting. However, most residents that I’ve talked to were glued to TVs at home, celebrating with family and friends and even in a few cases, post-game fireworks. This past week has certainly been one for the record books and a shared memory for all of us in Chicagoland. Cheers to letting happiness and joy dominate our lives, for a few days at least!

Like a Pig on a Spit

Adam Ullrich of the Village Tavern helped prepare for the annual Veteran's Pig Roast on July 24, 2016.

Adam Ullrich of the Village Tavern helped prepare for the annual Veterans Pig Roast held on Sunday, July 24, 2016.

As an elected official, there are times when I feel like a pig on a spit–slowly raked over the coals primarily for the enjoyment of others; because they can, because they’re bored, because it boosts their ego. Hey, I get the dynamic–why else would I read the celebrity gossip in People magazine? But in local politics this type of harassment, while entertaining, comes with a cumulative downside. The flaming controversy over a raffle held at the Village Tavern’s Veterans Pig Roast this past weekend is a perfect example.

Chip and Mary Ann Ullrich, owners of the Tavern, have generously hosted this event every summer for the past seven years as a way to publicly honor and thank our military veterans. Chip himself is a veteran from the Vietnam era. Widely promoted and well attended, this celebration is seen as a positive reflection on our community. The pig roast and entertainment are free for our veterans, and the festivities also feature a raffle with the proceeds to benefit local VFW Post 5151 and Midwest Veterans Closet charity organization. This raffle required an application for permission of the Village Board, which was unanimously granted. The Village is supportive of the intentions behind this event, as are the many residents who volunteer annually to make it a success. A win-win for all concerned.

However, a local woman has caused a stink this past week in her attempts to get the raffle invalidated on the grounds that it is illegal gambling. She has made numerous calls to village hall, resulting in a FOIA request for staff to comply with, as well as time from our village attorney, village employees, the Ullrichs and myself. All of this to get notoriety for herself and publicity for her cause. Long Grove seems to be an attractive place for those who like to seek attention by agitating over an emotional issue.

In today’s turbulent times we have no shortage of serious issues to become worked up about. But a raffle to benefit legitimate local veterans organizations is not one of them. This week, staff time (taxpayer funded) and volunteer time (a precious resource) has been used once again to satisfy the demands of community activists looking for recognition in the name of their cause. In my term as Village President I have seen this dynamic over and again with various local issues. When the dust settles, little is ever accomplished aside from the fact that the battle serves to chip away at our limited finances and morale just a tiny bit more. Why is this tolerated? Is it serving the greater good and righting injustice? Maybe not…..but perhaps somebody, somewhere, is enjoying the entertainment?

Changing of the Guard

(L to R) New Village Clerk Amy Gayton, Village President Angie Underwood, retiring Village Clerk Heidi Locker-Scheer.

(L to R) New Village Clerk Amy Gayton, Village President Angie Underwood, retiring Village Clerk Heidi Locker-Scheer.

At the Village Board meeting on July 12th we celebrated the retirement of Village Clerk Heidi Locker-Scheer, and welcomed the newest member of our team with the swearing in of Amy Gayton as our incoming Village Clerk. The transition went smoothly and while it was bittersweet to say farewell to such a valued member of the Board, Heidi is moving on to a new position at work and we are happy for her career success. The Village is lucky to have Amy step forward to volunteer at this time; she has previously coordinated the Archer School program for the Historical Society and donates many hours assisting with the festivals and activities of the Historic Downtown Business Association. Amy will serve as clerk for the remainder of the current term, which expires in April of 2017. Welcome, Amy!

When I took office as Village President one of my first duties was to appoint a Village Clerk as no one had run for the open seat in the election. Let’s face it, the clerk job is not terribly glamorous as it can be time consuming and precise, is a non-voting role, and of course lacks a paycheck. I hesitated to ask Heidi to volunteer as she works full-time in downtown Chicago, but knew her civic interest and leadership skills would be a perfect fit. Heidi has done an excellent job over the past three years keeping track of the meeting minutes and carrying out her election duties, leaving behind the legacy of a valuable contribution to our Village. Her faithful support and calm professionalism will be greatly missed by staff and board members alike, and we are thankful for her service over the years to the residents of Long Grove. Best wishes, Heidi!

The Thin Blue Line

Caught at Village Hall by our Lake County Sheriff Officer, Kevin McHugh.

Caught at Village Hall by our Lake County Sheriff Deputy, Kevin McHugh.

Most residents of Long Grove are familiar with the fact that we do not have a municipal police department, but instead contract for police services through the Lake County Sheriff’s Office. This has been a long-standing and beneficial arrangement for the Village, and we have been fortunate to have many deputies over the years providing excellent service to our community. One current familiar face to all of us in Long Grove is Deputy Sheriff Kevin McHugh.

From time to time, I have heard Long Grove warmly referred to as “Mayberry,” in a comparison to the fictional hometown that was the setting for T.V.’s The Andy Griffith Show. In that same spirit then, Deputy Sheriff McHugh is our Sheriff Andy Taylor. Officer McHugh has been serving our Village since May of 2005, and is by now so familiar with our community that he knows many of our citizens by name. I’m not the only resident who takes comfort in being greeted by Kevin’s friendly smile in the downtown, out on patrol of our streets, or at my doorstep when the security system is accidentally triggered (again!) When the Food Network needed an amicable and outgoing public figure to emcee the cooking competition during the Long Grove filming of their show Eating America during Strawberry Fest, Kevin was the man.

But make no mistake, Officer McHugh is a highly skilled professional and takes law enforcement in our Village very seriously. He graduated from University of Louisville, KY as a Crime Prevention Specialist and began his career with the Lake County Sheriff’s Office in 1987, being elected Deputy Sheriff of the Year in both 1999 and 2000. In August of 2013, just a few months after taking office, I was honored to present Officer McHugh with a special outstanding service award from the Village of Long Grove.

Yesterday, on June 30, 2016, Kevin retired after serving 29 years with the Lake County Sheriff. A cookout was held at the fire station so that we could offer our deep appreciation for the many contributions he has made to make our Village a safer place to live. Everyone in Long Grove wishes Kevin well in his new endeavors, and we hope to see him back in town from time to time.

Woodland Wonders

Beautiful woodland flowers such as these bluebells are blooming this week at Reed-Turner Woodland.

Beautiful flowers such as these bluebells carpet the ground this time of year at Reed-Turner Woodland in Long Grove.

Last Friday marked the end of a hectic workweek, and I needed to go someplace to relax and mull over a few Village concerns tossing about in my mind. Since it was about as perfect of a Spring day as we get here in Long Grove, I decided to take a stroll through one of my favorite places–Reed Turner Woodland Nature Preserve. Early May is an ideal time to experience this local treasure because a majority of the native Illinois wildflowers are in bloom and it is simply glorious! With the redbud trees flowering alongside the phlox, violets, and Virginia bluebells, the palette of purples at the moment is stunning. Some of the other woodland varieties that I spotted blooming right now include: trout lily, jack-in-the-pulpit, May-apples, and red and white trillium. Several years ago, resident Kathy Wiberg trained me to be a guide at the preserve so that I could lead groups on field trips, and to this day I appreciate knowing the names and stories of so many wonders to be found in the woodland.

But to me, the greater beauty of Reed-Turner Woodland is intangible; it’s not the flowers but rather the serenity of the setting. The first visit I make in the Spring always gob-smacks me with the grandeur of nature and my own insignificance. I came to the preserve this particular day to let the woodland comfort me and to be reminded why I love Long Grove so much. At times, that can be a challenge. I have a favorite bench that sits up high on the ravine, overlooking the curving creekbed below. Our recent Spring rains have left a gentle but steady flow of water over the rocks and fallen limbs, and the murmur of this never fails to soothe my soul. For me, this is a tranquil place where I sometimes ask silent questions. And if I can calm my mind enough to allow peace to come, I will usually hear some answers.

This 36 acres of high quality biological diversity was given to the community many years ago by the Reed-Turner family and in the 1980’s was dedicated as an Illinois State Nature Preserve. The property is currently maintained and restored by the Long Grove Park District, with Barbara Reed-Turner still leading the way for preservation with her ongoing spirit and love for the land. When I need some personal inspiration to keep going, she is one of the residents that I most often think of.

This coming weekend, May 14th and 15th, the Long Grove & Kildeer Garden Club will be holding their annual native plant sale at the log-cabin Nature Center located at Reed-Turner. In addition to knowing that you are supporting the major fundraiser for our local community group (which sponsors a Stevenson High School scholarship and paid summer internships at the Woodland), you can rest assured that the plants for sale will work in your Northern Illinois yard, because they all come from local gardens. If you are interested in visiting the plant sale (I’ll be working on Sunday from 10-12–come say hello!) or strolling the woodland trails, Reed-Turner Woodland Nature Preserve is located at 3849 Old McHenry Road, in Long Grove. For hours and more information please call 847-438-4743.