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!

One Yuuuge Check

Ryan Messner, President of the Historic Downtown Business Association presents a ginormous check to Diane Trickey, Treasurer of the Long Grove Historical Society.

Ryan Messner, President of the Historic Downtown Business Association presents a ginormous check to Diane Trickey, Treasurer of the Long Grove Historical Society.

Last weekend’s Strawberry Fest featured lovely weather and a healthy attendance. The Historic Downtown Long Grove Business Association generously pledged to donate a portion of the admission fees to help offset the costs of needed restoration for our Historic Covered Bridge. The happy result is pictured above, as Ryan Messner, President of the HDLGBA presents a giant check to Diane Trickey, Treasurer of the Long Grove Historical Society, during the June 27th Village Board meeting. It is exciting to see donations such as these–earmarked for covered bridge restoration–start to accumulate, and this is only the beginning. Stay tuned as efforts continue over the summer and into the fall as the residents, merchants, Historical Society, and other community groups work together in raising funds to “Save the Bridge.”

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.

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:

https://www.facebook.com/178143526074/videos/10154772743051075/

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

http://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/lake-zurich/news/ct-bgc-long-grove-covered-bridge-tl-0223-20170215-story.html

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

http://www.dailyherald.com/article/20170214/news/170219375/

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.

hearts

 

 

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 change.org (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!

LILG-60th-Birthday-Cake

(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!