The Blog Will Go On

Two of my blog readers (L) Georgia Cawley and (R) Marie Borg, who have encouraged me to keep the blog going. Photo taken at the open house for Joanie's Pizza, one year ago.

Two of my readers (L) Georgia Cawley and (R) Marie Borg, who have encouraged me to keep on blogging. Photo taken at the open house for Joanie’s Pizza, in April of 2016.

When I started this blog a little over two years ago, it was an experiment in trying to communicate more. My intention was to provide one additional way for residents of Long Grove to find out about major issues going on with the Village Board, and to give a little insight into what my job as Village President entails. I also wanted a platform that was not an official village communication, still publicly accessible on the web, but where I could use my own voice and perspectives and hopefully connect a bit on a personal level with the readers. Along the way I found that I could also use the blog to highlight the community, the downtown shops, festivals, our history, open spaces, community groups, scouts, schools, local citizens of merit, and generally all the good things that make life in Long Grove so special.

Last fall when I announced that I was not running for re-election, I planned to wrap up the blog when my term expires at the end of April. I thought it would be best for me to focus my energy on non-Long Grove things and take a break from any community involvement for awhile. But what I have found is that when you truly care about something, it is nearly impossible to give it up.

Two things have caused me to have a change of heart. The recent campaign to save our one-lane covered bridge and get it listed on the National Register has highlighted the importance and the need to stay involved in the preservation of our local history and the character that makes our Village unique. This has been a long term passion of mine as I have been an active volunteer and board member of the Long Grove Historical Society for the past 18 years, serving as President from 2009-2011. I have been asked to step back into this role, so in a few weeks I find myself taking up the gavel again as the President of the Historical Society.

The other reason I have decided to stay involved with Long Grove is because of so many of you, my faithful blog readers! The number of personal requests to ask me to please continue has been humbling, and as always, I appreciate the feedback. So yes, due to popular opinion, the blog will go on. I will continue to write about our wonderful community, our downtown and civic groups, local events and people, and whatever else pops into my head that somehow relates. Once I leave office the posts will no longer focus on government, but I may still write about local issues as they relate to the community. I guess we will all just have to see how this blog experiment continues to evolve–it’s still a work in progress!

3,500 voices of Long Grove supporters help to Save The Bridge


The voices of many in the Long Grove Community Church were heard at the February 14th Village Board meeting.

The passionate voices of many were heard in the Long Grove Community Church during the February 14th Village Board meeting. Church members were very gracious in hosting us and even provided Valentine’s Day themed treats and refreshments!

On Valentine’s Day, passion is a good thing. The love shown for our covered bridge by over 3500 petition signers and 150 attendees at the February 14th Village Board meeting proved strong enough to sway our six Trustees to move towards preserving our local landmark. After weeks of “Save the Bridge” efforts by our downtown merchants, residents, and the Long Grove Historical Society, the Village Board voted in an informal straw poll to discontinue spending any more time and money looking into demolishing the one-lane bridge and building a new two lane bridge to conform to federal standards.

This action came after the Village learned late last week that the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency has deemed our 1906 covered bridge eligible to be placed on the National Registry of Historic Places. This is great news for all of Long Grove and opens up the future possibility of grants and other funding sources for preservation. In addition, during public comment the largest property owner in our historic downtown, Gerald Forsythe, pledged to donate $25,000 to kick-start restoration efforts, and called on the community to create a private fund.

This week, I have had the pleasure of hearing the grateful voices of two prominent Long Grove residents who were active in efforts to preserve the bridge back in 1973, when the wooden covering was added. Both Barbara Reed Turner and Robert Parker Coffin made personal requests to me to “Save the Bridge,” and between passionate public expression, notice of historic status, and pledges of financial support, I think we may have just granted their wishes.

To watch a video of the 2/14/2017 Village Board meeting click here:

To read an article published by the Chicago Tribune on 2/15/2017 click here:

To read an article published in the Daily Herald on 2/15/2017 click here:

A picture speaks a thousand words. Long Grove merchants John Kopecky and Ryan Messner show their support at the meeting.

A picture speaks a thousand words. Long Grove merchants John Kopecky and Ryan Messner show their support at the meeting.

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.




National School Choice Week

Having fun with the students and teachers of the Montessori School of Long Grove on January 25, 2017.

Having fun with some of the students and teachers of the Montessori School of Long Grove on January 25, 2017.

What better way to liven up a gray and wintry day than by sharing lunch and enthusiasm with some of our local students? Last week I was invited to come visit the Montessori School of Long Grove, as a special visitor during National School Choice week. I had loads of fun getting to know the kids and even got to meet Shelly, the classroom turtle. As a bonus I was given a warm yellow scarf to remember the event, in fact we all did, as shown in the picture above. It was a pleasure sharing pizza and veggies with my charming lunchtime companions!

The children had many interesting questions about my job, and wanted to know about some current events like the discussions on how best to renovate our covered bridge. Since the school is located only a hop, skip, and a jump from the bridge, the Montessori students are very familiar with it and sometimes take walks in the warmer weather using it to cross over Buffalo Creek to the park. They wanted to know how they could get involved, if they wrote letters or made posters would the elected officials pay attention? I assured them that even our youngest residents have important voices! Not all the kids had the same opinions on what should be done (just like the grown-ups!) and we talked about how in a democracy, everyone doesn’t always agree but we respectfully listen to one another and then decide what the majority thinks is best. Who knows, maybe one day some of these Montessori students will be serving our town, our state, or our country as an elected official themselves? From what I saw last week, they are off to a great start!

A Bridge Too Far?

The iconic covered bridge in historic downtown Long Grove is a symbol of our village around the globe.

The iconic covered bridge in historic downtown Long Grove is a symbol of our village around the globe.

At the beginning of this year, The Daily Herald asked Lake County mayors: What are you most looking forward to your town accomplishing/doing/changing in 2017? My response highlighted several infrastructure improvements slated to begin this year, such as Old McHenry Road resurfacing and streetscaping in the downtown crossroads. I ended with, “And most significantly, I look forward to input and direction from our residents, through open houses and public hearing participation, on the course of action that our Village Board should take regarding the reconstruction of our iconic covered bridge.” Well, ask and you shall receive!

The Historic Downtown Long Grove Association (our local “chamber of commerce”), in cooperation with members of the Long Grove Community Church, Long Grove Montessori School, Long Grove Historical Society, and concerned area residents have launched an initiative to “Save the Bridge.” As of yesterday, a petition on (click here to view) was started, and has gathered at the time of this writing over 1000 signatures. It has been overwhelming to see the beautiful memories and tributes flooding in from Long Grove residents, and those all over the country who grew up in Long Grove or remember visits to our town in years past. Our historic, one-lane covered bridge is even receiving love from such far-flung places as Norway, Japan, Ireland and Vatican City.

Why all the fuss? The covered bridge, which has iron truss supports dating back to 1906, is aging and needs replacement or a major rebuild. (click here for more history on the bridge) After years of study by prior and current Village Boards, the Trustees will be making a decision this year on whether to replace the bridge exactly as it currently looks, with a one-lane configuration, or to accept federal funding in exchange for building to federal standards, which require a two-lane traffic flow. It will be less costly to our village finances to accept the federal dollars, however the Village will still be responsible for 20% of the cost of this option. If the bridge is simply rebuilt to the current appearance it will be entirely on the Village’s dime. The Village Board has foreseen this expense coming for many years, and has earmarked funds in a capital budget for the bridge. (Click here for a recent newspaper article with more details)

The push and pull comes down to fiscal vs. tradition vs. safety. Many Trustees are supportive of the demolition and reconstruction to two-lane in exchange for saving money. Others want to keep the quaint appeal and favor the traffic calming effects of the one-lane in a heavy pedestrian area. I have stated previously that I have a soft spot for our charming covered bridge. I like it just the way it is and see no need to expand it to two lanes. I am firmly in agreement with those signing the online petitions–I love our covered bridge.

The Trustees have directed the village engineers to start the process for the federal funding option, which is a multi-year effort. Studies have been made, and are ongoing this Spring. In May, the Village is planning a public open house to further gather community input. A definite decision will be made after that time. Or maybe sooner if the public outcry is loud enough? Stay tuned to this blog for further updates.

January 11, 2017 UPDATE:  Click here for an article published today in The Daily Herald

January 12, 2017 UPDATE:  Click here for a piece from WBBM radio

January 13, 2017 UPDATE: Click here for an article published today by The Chicago Tribune

January 19, 2017 UPDATE: Click here for another article published by The Daily Herald

Happy Birthday, Long Grove!


(Note:  Earlier this year I wrote the following article for our Village newsletter, The Bridge. Following that publication, it was reprinted by our regional newspaper, The Daily Herald. Apologies to those of you who have read this before!)

On December 30th, our Village will be marking an anniversary as we celebrate 60 years since our incorporation in 1956. Prior to that time, this area had evolved from a rural commercial crossroads whose roots go back to about 1838. The idea to incorporate first surfaced when some residents in the early 50’s formed civic groups to represent zoning concerns, and soon the Lake County Clerk was petitioned to place a referendum question on the ballot. Former Village President Robert Parker Coffin (who served from 1959-1981) remembers that Long Grove was incorporated, “To protect it from being gobbled up by the surrounding communities which were in the early stage of increasingly vigorous expansion. We wanted to protect an environment and rural way of life that was fast disappearing around us. At the time (1956) Long Grove consisted mainly of dairy farms and residential estates. There were no subdivisions.”

The first Village Board of Trustees consisted of community members who were appointed informally to serve until the next election date in April. That election, a contested one, resulted in all of the previously appointed officials being duly elected. The trustees had been selected in an effort to represent every section of the new village, farmers and commuters. The first Village President was Guy Reed; the father of Barbara Turner and benefactor of what we enjoy today as Reed-Turner Woodland. In the beginning, the Village had no income for two years and everyone was a volunteer. The first full-time employee began on October 1, 1970. He was Superintendent Tony Berg, who carried out his duties from a basement office in the old creamery building. Our first Village Manager was hired soon afterwards. The early Village Board meetings were held in the Kildeer Countryside School cafeteria, which provided a small office for the Village Manager to use. Official village records were stored in the homes of elected officials.

Well, times have changed since those early days. We eventually acquired a Village Hall in 1977 after the old Drexler Tavern had been saved and moved to where it is now, adding a proper meeting room. Today Long Grove has one part time and four full time employees who work out of that same building, serving approx. 8,500 residents in 60 different subdivisions and neighborhoods. Our Village has grown to encompass roughly 18 square miles, which includes approx. 3,000 acres of protected, dedicated open space.

From our humble beginnings sixty years ago…Happy Birthday, Long Grove!

Coffee + Cooperation = Community Success



I would like to share with you something that I learned today, something that warmed my heart. First a little background:

Ethel and Tim Berger are Long Grove residents and the owners of our independent, “mom & pop” coffee spot, Beans & Leaves. For many of us here in town, this is our local place to hang out or meet up with friends, and I often joke that it serves as my unofficial “office” since I don’t have a dedicated space at Village Hall and I regularly use Beans & Leaves as a place to meet with residents or others who request a one-on-one with me. Besides serving great coffee and tea drinks, Ethel and Tim host free music nights for the residents every month, featuring local talent. Another way I know that they serve the community is by supporting and sponsoring activities at the Montessori School of Long Grove.

Arboria is a newly constructed residence and business here in our Village. Expected to open early in 2017, it will provide assisted living and memory care to new and existing members of our community. As with any new development that presents change, particularly in a community that values native trees and open space, this sparked lively discussions. Our Village Staff, plan commissioners, and elected officials worked together with the property owners and developers and after several public hearings the project was granted approval. I feel that when a new neighbor comes in, it is always in the best interest of the entire community to welcome them graciously and partner together to make as many benefits and good relationships come forward as possible.

Recently, Ethel was invited by the executive staff and owners of Arboria to present a “coffee tasting seminar,” in an effort by the new development to engage with the Long Grove business community. According to representative Jordan Glazov, Arboria has already partnered with Joanie’s Pizza and the Grove Country Club to host and cater events leading up to the grand opening. When I stopped in for my latte this morning, Ethel was beaming as she shared her excitement at being recently asked to supply Arboria with custom “Arboria Blend” coffee beans, created especially for their residents to be featured during meals and available at their in-house bistro-patisserie. This is a welcome new opportunity to grow her business, and a great example of a collaborative relationship that benefits everybody in the community–merchants and residents alike. It’s a win-win-win in my book:  Arboria gets high-quality custom coffee, a downtown Long Grove business flourishes, and the residents are gifted with a merchant who serves and supports the community. Seeing positive efforts like these, by those willing to work together in a spirit of mutual support, shows me that things are moving in the right direction. It is possible that by cooperating, we will ALL succeed. Today, Long Grove, you made me smile!

Woodlawn Blue Ribbon Celebration

Celebrating Woodlawn Middle School's recent Blue Ribbon Recognition with Principal Greg Grana.

Celebrating Woodlawn Middle School’s recent Blue Ribbon Recognition with Principal Greg Grana.

I had so much fun today visiting Woodlawn Middle School–nothing beats the energy of a gym full of 6th, 7th and 8th Graders on the verge of a holiday vacation! I was asked to participate in an assembly celebrating their recent recognition of a prestigious national award. Below is the text of my speech:

Speaking today at the Woodlawn assembly.

Speaking today at the Woodlawn assembly.

“Good afternoon! One of the best parts of my job as Village President is getting to recognize others for their successes; by giving out awards, congratulations, or praise. Today I couldn’t be more pleased and proud to be a part of the Woodlawn Middle School community, here to celebrate the distinction of earning the 2016 National Blue Ribbon Recognition from the U.S. Secretary of Education. Congratulations!

Having top-notch schools is an attribute that is highly valued by the residents of Long Grove. I know this for a fact. One year ago, in a village-wide survey we asked our residents to rate various aspects of our quality of life. Being “a place for high quality education” was ranked number one, with 93% responding that our schools are excellent or good. Clearly, having high-performing schools is important to our community.

I also know through first-hand experience that excellent schools matter, and that Woodlawn is terrific, because I am the parent of three Woodlawn graduates. I remember being here the first day Woodlawn opened to welcome students back in 1999, as my daughter was in the very first class of 6th Graders. I’ve logged in many hours over the years volunteering for special lunch, dessert day, lighted schoolhouse, school store…you name it…in addition to attending countless parent-teacher conferences. What I have seen, over and over, is the diligent, committed, and caring way the administration, faculty, and staff dedicate themselves to making sure all of our children are given the tools to succeed, not only here at Woodlawn, but later, in life.

As a representative of the citizens of the Village of Long Grove, it is with great honor that I celebrate with you today as you receive this award. Thank you for making your community proud!”

District #96 School Board President Marc Tepper joined me outside Woodlawn before the celebration.

District #96 School Board President Marc Tepper joined me outside Woodlawn before the celebration.

Power of the Purse Raises $37,000

Having fun with the ladies and supporting early childhood education at Power of the Purse: (L to R) Lori Lyman, Village of Long Grove Trustee, Kristi Long, President and CEO of United Way of Lake County, Angie Underwood, Long Grove Village President, Patrice  Maloney-Knauff, Women's Leadership Council Co-Chair.

Having fun with the ladies and supporting early childhood education at Power of the Purse: (L to R) Lori Lyman, Village of Long Grove Trustee, Kristi Long, President and CEO of United Way of Lake County, Angie Underwood, Long Grove Village President, and Patrice Maloney-Knauff, Women’s Leadership Council Co-Chair.

What woman doesn’t love a beautiful new purse? I’m pretty excited about the one I recently acquired at this year’s Power of the Purse event. Held at Royal Melbourne Country Club in Long Grove, this luncheon celebrating women, friendship, and philanthropy is the major fundraiser for the Women’s Leadership Council of United Way of Lake County. As a member of the WLC, I was delighted that our Village was chosen to host the event this year, and I made sure to pull together a table of Long Grove ladies who are passionate about getting our youngest Lake County residents ready to succeed in school and in life.

During my year and a half involvement with the WLC, I have been impressed by the support given both financially and in volunteerism to provide opportunities for low income children to increase their literacy. I’ve gotten to share a favorite Dr. Seuss story with preschool students at the Green Bay Early Childhood Center in North Chicago, and help establish their new Infant Toddler Community Resource Center. This summer at a meeting in our Long Grove Village Hall, I got to meet the grant recipients of our “Little Kids, Big Futures” Philanthropy Fund. Programs such as Success By 6 and Kindergarten Countdown Camp are possible as a result of the monies raised at Power of the Purse.

So about that new purse that I purchased–I had to act quickly to pick it out, sign my name on the pledge card and pop a balloon before several other women who were hot on my heels scarfed it up! There were games to be played, raffles to win, silent auction items to bid on, books to be dedicated and a delicious lunch to enjoy with friends. It was great fun to join with over 200 other ladies to spend an afternoon shopping, socializing, and making a positive impact in children’s lives.

Mel’s Gas Info-Station

Long Grove resident Randy Towner, carrying on the family gas station at the crossroads, Mel's.

Randy Towner helps carry on his father’s business, Mel’s Marathon Mini Mart, at the crossroads in downtown Long Grove.

Every small town has a “hub” from which all real information flows. In my central Illinois hometown, circa 1970’s, it was the local diner, Kathy’s Kitchen. The grain elevator was another hotspot for local news, and I got to witness this firsthand during the summers when I worked for my Dad, who managed the elevator, and my cousin Rita, who managed the office help. Farmers would come in every day to “check the grain prices” but I suspected another reason they stayed and visited with each other so long was the desire to “check the latest chatter” going on around town.

In Long Grove, the undisputed central source of information is Mel’s, our crossroads gas station. Originally owned by long-time residents Mel and Dee Towner, the station is built on family property that dates back to the 1920’s and includes the open area now known as Towner Green. The station is currently managed by Mel’s sons Randy and Wendall, who run a mini mart in addition to the traditional gas pumps. Nothing much happens in Long Grove that Randy has not caught wind of almost immediately. When I truly want to find out what is going on in town, I go fill the car up, or better yet…send my husband to find out the latest report. Aaron loves to come home and inform the Village President what information hasn’t yet made it to Village Hall. And if I ever feel the need to verify the advance intelligence, it always checks out.

It helps that Mel’s also provides a tow truck for use in emergencies, so communications with the Lake County Sheriff officers are frequent. Case in point:  recently a local youth drove a car into a neighborhood pond, and one of my Trustees happened by the scene as the rescue was in process and phoned me. I felt like I had some breaking-news information to tell my husband as he walked in the door, only to have him fill me in with even more details gleaned as he was getting gas for the lawnmower.

The Towner family has long held a role in helping our community prosper. Mel Towner served 44 years as a volunteer fire fighter, and Dee Towner’s father donated the land to build our first fire department. The gas station today is a touchstone to our roots as a rural community. If a business in the historic downtown is closing, or a new store opening up, 9 times out of 10 I will hear the news from Randy first. I think it is great that we have a hometown merchant who provides a place to check in and take the pulse of the community; a place where you can experience both a friendly greeting and some local flavor. Mel’s is located at the heart of our crossroads and is in a variety of ways the center of what keeps many of us in Long Grove connected.