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.

Accepting the Conservation Challenge

Conserve Lake County staff members Greg Rajsky (left) and Sarah Surroz (right) pictured with me at the April 20th Annual Meeting.

Conserve Lake County staff members Greg Rajsky (left) and Sarah Surroz (right) pictured with me at the April 20th Annual Meeting.

Happy Earth Day! As we mark this yearly observance, I would like to share with you the story of a recent challenge that I accepted on behalf of the Long Grove Village Board, our residents, and myself personally.

Conserve Lake County is an organization of committed people who believe that by working together we can protect, preserve and enhance our Lake County land, water, and wildlife in ways that will improve our lives now and in the years to come. This group made up of individuals, families, homeowner associations, companies, corporations, municipalities, and schools recently held their Annual Meeting this past Wednesday evening at Independence Grove Forest Preserve. One of the themes of the night was the challenge, “How will YOU conserve Lake County in 2016?” I was one of four local leaders asked to accept the challenge and speak to the 250 attendees about my organization’s plans.

One of the benefits Conserve Lake County offers is on-site consultations and resources to assist private property owners in environmental stewardship. Advice is given to help residents maintain their properties so that they support clean water, rich soil, and resilient ecosystems. Properties that meet these guidelines can become certified through the Conservation@Home program. Our Village of Long Grove has taken measures over the years to preserve many of our native prairies, wetlands and forests in conservancy easements on private property, as well as in dedicated public open spaces. To encourage our residents to maintain this legacy, the Village Board recently voted to reimburse half the cost to any of our property owners who participate in the Conservation@Home program in 2016. Our community members have long been considered leaders in conservation and the potential for properties to become certified is significant. I believe we are up to the challenge!

I also believe that it makes a more powerful statement if we can lead by example. So to that end, my husband Aaron and I are accepting the challenge to work towards getting our own 9 acres of property in Long Grove certified this year. We made this public commitment not only to help bring attention to a worthy endeavor, but because we feel it is one more way to show our appreciation and respect for the natural beauty of the community that we are fortunate enough to live in.

At the conclusion of the meeting it was lovely to meet several Long Grove residents also attending, who I had not previously known. They thanked me for accepting the challenge on their behalf, and are also working towards getting their own properties certified. When like-minded individuals with a love of nature work together, great things can happen!

For more information on the Conservation@Home program visit ConserveLakeCounty.org

Bark less, Wag more!

My grand-puppy, Willa.

My grand-puppy, Willa.

As I was exiting the health club this morning I noticed a bumper sticker that made me smile…a cute dog proclaiming, “Bark less, Wag more!” You know how sometimes the right message hits you at the right moment? This week I’ve heard my share of concerns from several residents on various different issues, and sometimes we all have valid reasons to “bark.” But instead of letting it get me down, I am going to choose to “wag” my tail a little harder. Because there are a lot of really good things to love about Long Grove, and I hear about them from residents that I listen to, who write to me, and who commented on our recent community survey. Here is just a snippet off the top of my head:

What Do We Love About Long Grove?

  • Seeing the sunny daffodils bloom each spring along the right-of-ways and getting free bulbs to plant each fall.
  • Witnessing a huge herd of deer bounding through the snow in the backyard.
  • Christmas lights on the covered bridge.
  • Open spaces that sport native and sometimes rare prairie wildflowers.
  • Knowing that Sunset Foods donates a little bit more to our local school districts each time we use cloth or reusable bags.
  • Having a drink at a tavern that has been in continual operation since the 1800’s.
  • Enjoying beautiful music on Towner Green on Sunday afternoons in the summer.
  • Friendly neighbors who share our “Long Grovian” tendencies.
  • Neighborhood walking trails and nature preserves we can use everyday.
  • Schools that prepare our children for the future with a high quality education.
  • Safe and tidy neighborhoods and volunteers who step up to keep them that way.

I hope your tail is wagging with many, many more reasons to love Long Grove.

Happy Valentine’s Day! 


Bob Borg Bridge

Family members of Bob Borg stand at the entrance to the newly renovated and dedicated bridge on October 21, 2015.

Family members of Bob Borg stand at the entrance to the newly renovated and dedicated bridge on October 21, 2015.

As 2015 winds to a close it is natural to take a look back at all the changes one year can bring. Some things are gained and carry forward into the new year, and some things remain behind in our memories. Earlier this year we said goodbye to one of my favorite residents, Bob Borg, who was a member of our Conservancy & Scenic Corridor Committee, Park District Board of Trustees, and Historical Society. Bob donated countless hours of his time over the years to maintain the open spaces and historical buildings that give our Village some of its distinctive character. This Fall the bridge leading over the creek from Village Hall to the Archer one-room schoolhouse was renovated, a project that Bob had initiated. Our bridge is now safe for the students who visit on field trips and accessible for wheelchairs and riding lawnmowers, and yet it maintains the country charm. I know that Bob would be pleased. To honor his contributions and legacy to Long Grove, the Historical Society placed a monument stone at the entrance to the bridge on October 21st. The stone is large and sturdy (just like Bob) and set at a laid-back angle (he was a laid-back kinda guy!) and was christened with a toast and a sacrificial bottle of whiskey (don’t worry, the contents had been previously enjoyed).

So as we move on into 2016, let us remember those special people and memories that for 2015 marked a turning point. The new year ahead is certain to bring some changes, for our Village as well as in each of our own lives. I will close with a quote that I like from former President John F. Kennedy:

“Change is the law of life, and those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.”

Meeting Governor Rauner

L to R: Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner, me (looking very petite despite wearing 3 1/2 inch heels!) and my husband Aaron.

Last week Governor Rauner attended our Lake County Municipal League annual dinner at Kemper Lakes in Kildeer, and I finally had my opportunity to meet him in person. First impression–wow he is tall! He is also extremely gracious after what must have been a long and difficult day dealing with State budget issues and unrest over police brutality in Chicago. Governor Rauner thanked me for my service to Long Grove, but I cannot imagine the amount of pressure he must be under serving our State at this particular time. I asked him if he would enjoy sleeping in his own bed tonight (his home is nearby in Lake County) and that elicited a big smile.

Elected officials are under intense scrutiny in our world today, on the national, state, and even local levels. And for good reason, because we want those that represent us to be held to a high standard, and the work that they do for us to be transparent. But all that said, public figures are not to be put on a pedestal. Each and every one of us is flawed in some way, and it is my belief that a large part of the purpose of our human experience is learning to overcome those flaws. And equally importantly, excepting those flaws in others, and helping them to work through life’s lessons with patience and compassion.  Am I making excuses for illegal and immoral behavior or abuse of public trust? No way. But I can say that the vast majority of Trustees, Mayors, county and state officials that I have had the privilege to work with are genuinely trying their hardest to make the lives of their constituents better. It’s just that we can’t always agree on how that is best accomplished!

While I don’t agree with all of Governor Rauner’s policies, I am truly grateful for the gift of his personal time and talents to help the citizens of Illinois. I have faith and trust that he is working diligently to find ways to solve the numerous problems in our state that he has inherited. He rightfully deserves our respect, even if we don’t share the same position on every decision made. Despite disagreements on local issues, I feel the same sense of respect for my Lake County and Long Grove colleagues. With very few exceptions, we are all doing the best that we know how to do.

And even though I know Bruce Rauner is really just another Lake County resident (admittedly, a statuesque one!) who holds public office, it was still pretty cool to shake hands with the Governor!

CERT Team: On Deck for Emergencies

Wielding the fire axe with members of our Long Grove CERT Team.

Wielding the fire axe with members of our Long Grove CERT Team.

The Long Grove Fire Protection District held an open house this fall during National Fire Prevention Week and the CERT team was on hand to take part in the festivities. In addition to answering questions and interacting with the public, they found time to dress me up in a Fire Chief vest and they even let me get up close and personal with a fire axe! I learned many interesting things about this dedicated group of community volunteers that day, starting with the meaning of their acronym CERT: Community Emergency Response Team. This year marks the 10th anniversary of the formation of our Long Grove team, which works hand-in-hand with our local first responders to provide extra assistance in special emergency situations. Some of the types of service our CERT volunteers provide include traffic direction, shoveling snow for the elderly and disabled, informing residents in cases of suspected gas leaks or downed power lines, and clearing fallen trees with their trusty power tools.

To get a little more insight into the experience of being a CERT member, I called my friend and fellow resident Walter Roth. A three-year veteran of the program, Walter happily answered a few of my questions:

What type of training did you initially have to undergo to become a member of the CERT team?
Walter: It was a nine week process. We met for three hours every Tuesday evening, and the training focused on areas such as First Aid, Search & Rescue, and CPR.

Did you have to train out in the field, and do you have ongoing education sessions?
Walter: Yes, as a matter of fact in late September I attended a weekend training seminar sponsored by Illinois Search and Rescue. This was held at Lakewood Forest Preserve and included four hours of classroom instruction and 12 hours of field work. The outdoor sessions focused on helping us sharpen our skills in looking for lost people and evidence. The instructors hid a deck of playing cards throughout the forest preserve and we had to find as many as possible using special observation techniques and reminding ourselves to look for things that are not always obvious. The average untrained volunteer will only have a 25% success rate at this kind of task, as opposed to trained volunteers like our CERT team members, who average closer to 80 or 90%. My personal experience with this has taught me to push past any bias and not make assumptions in a situation—a lot of evidence can be overlooked by making incorrect assumptions.

Have you had any experience so far that sticks out in your mind as a defining moment of your CERT service?
Walter: In April of 2014 we were called into service in the middle of the night to assist with the house explosion in Royal Melbourne. Our CERT team was tasked with doing building assessments and looking for anyone who might be injured in neighborhoods adjoining Royal Melbourne and across the golf course from the explosion site. It was just amazing to be on hand to see how much damage had occurred and to be able to be helpful in a time of need for our community.

I want to take a moment in this season of Thanksgiving to appreciate Walter and all his colleagues on the CERT team for their ongoing service to our community. On behalf of the Village Board and all the residents, Thank You! For more information on this program, be sure to check out their website: slcrcert.org.