Big Shoes to Fill

Incoming Long Grove Historical Society President Angie Underwood pokes fun at outgoing Historical Society President (and spouse) Aaron Underwood.

Incoming Long Grove Historical Society President Angie Underwood pokes fun at outgoing Historical Society President (and spouse) Aaron Underwood.

Each year at this time, the Long Grove Historical Society holds an annual meeting. It provides a nice opportunity to gather and celebrate the accomplishments of the past twelve months, thank the retiring officers, start brainstorming for the year ahead, and install the new executive board members. Last fall when I announced my retirement from the Village Board, and talk was floated that perhaps I would consider coming back to serve as President of the Historical Society again, the current President (my loving husband) quipped that, “well, I don’t know, she’d have some awfully big shoes to fill.”  Admittedly, he was joking, but the rest of the women in the room lost no time in setting him straight. So I could not resist the opportunity to prove to everyone at the annual meeting that yes, in fact I can fill his shoes, and in 4 inch heels no less!

Teasing aside, the Historical Society has enjoyed a very successful year under Aaron’s leadership with the October Ghostwalk event in the downtown getting even bigger and better, and it will be a hard act to follow. The partnership between the Historical Society, Downtown Merchants, and the Long Grove Community Church has now grown beyond the Ghostwalk to include collaborating on activities for Vintage Days and advocating for the preservation of our one-lane historic covered bridge. Look for all of these activities to continue into the remainder of 2017 and 2018, with some new ideas thrown in for good measure. I am very enthused to be working with our new and returning Historical Society board members to preserve, share, and celebrate our unique Long Grove history. We hope that you will join with us!

On the Endangered List

Speaking at a press conference in Springfield on April 6th with Ryan Messner.

Speaking at a press conference in Springfield on April 6th with Ryan Messner.

Every year, the nonprofit organization Landmarks Illinois creates a list of the Most Endangered Historic Places in Illinois. This is done to provide a focus for the organization’s statewide advocacy efforts. Over the last 22 years, a third of all properties and sites included on the annual Most Endangered list have been saved. This year the spotlight involved Long Grove, as our covered bridge was featured as one of the historic bridges on the list to be saved. Landmarks Illinois made the announcement of the list during a press conference in Springfield earlier this week, and a group of nine residents and merchants traveled to our state capital to participate. Ryan Messner, President of the Historic Downtown Long Grove Business Association, and I were both asked to speak at the press conference about our local efforts to save the bridge. We are grateful for the public awareness that being on this annual list generates, as well as the help provided by Landmarks Illinois going forward as we advocate together for national historic register status and restoration funds.

While in town, I met with our State Representative Nick Sauer in his Springfield office to discuss the covered bridge and other local issues. After the press conference our group of nine visited with State Senator Dan McConchie, who graciously gave us a personal tour of the senate floor and posed for pictures. I even had the opportunity to stand at the podium in the senate chamber, hold the gavel, and pretend to break a tie. Personally, I was dreaming of bringing down the gavel to accept an Illinois budget, but alas….not my jurisdiction.

With only two weeks to go in my term, this trip to Springfield will be remembered as one of my last and best experiences as Village President. We even caught a glimpse of Governor Rauner as he passed across the rotunda in front of us! At dinner the night before, I had the chance to talk with State Senator Melinda Bush about a bill that I am following, and she offered to introduce me, Village Clerk Amy Gayton, and Amy’s two daughters Alex and Nikki to the sponsor of the bill (who happened to be eating in the same restaurant) so that we could thank her. The female legislators took the opportunity to encourage the young girls to run for office themselves one day. Truly, it was inspiring.

Our Long Grove contingent surrounding State Senator Dan McConchie in the senate chamber (L to R): Jim Unzler, Aaron and Angie Underwood, Dana and Ryan Messner, Amy, Alex, Nikki and David Gayton.

Our Long Grove contingent surrounding State Senator Dan McConchie in the senate chamber (L to R): Jim Uszler, Aaron and Angie Underwood, Dana and Ryan Messner, Amy, Alex, Nikki and David Gayton.

An Unforgettable Experience

Being interviewed live by anchor Jeff  on Fox Business News in February, 2014.

Being interviewed live by anchor Jeff Flock on Fox Business News in February, 2014.

Now that I am winding down to my last few weeks in office, friends have been inquiring about what experiences I will remember most from my time as Village President. One memory that is forever burned into my brain is the referendum in Spring of 2014, when the residents were asked if they wanted to authorize a tax to pay for repairs to our thoroughfare roads in Long Grove. As it turned out, they didn’t. But the weeks leading up to election day and the month or so following were truly unforgettable. And the resulting experience of being interviewed, live, on a national network news channel stands out as a highlight. Here’s how it happened:

The 2014 referendum question had received quite a large amount of media attention, with a featured article appearing on the front page of the Chicago Tribune, and additional coverage by the Daily Herald and Crain’s Chicago Business. I was interviewed live on the radio by several local stations, including NPR. All of this caught the eye of FOX Business News, who came to Long Grove on a very snowy President’s Day in February of 2014. Throughout the day, as the snowflakes drifted down into a white-out blizzard, I was interviewed live for four separate segments, at different locations in the Village. The first spot was filmed in front of the covered bridge, but the subsequent three interviews were filmed live while I was driving the news team’s truck over our Long Grove roads, simultaneously answering questions, during an escalating snowstorm. I will never forget the reality TV challenge of giving articulate answers to the reporter’s questions while driving an unfamiliar truck as I pumped the brakes to stop skidding onto Route 53 and knowing that this was being broadcast live. I think I surprised everyone–staff, news crew, and myself–that I was able to pull this whole thing off and get everyone and the truck back to Village Hall in one piece. When it was all said and done I was dubbed “a real trouper” and I will say that it was a true lesson in grace under pressure!

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.

Girls about Town

When I need to meet with the Mayor of Kildeer, Nandia Black, we do it in style--over high tea!

When I need to meet with the Mayor of Kildeer, Nandia Black, we do it in style–over high tea!

At a recent municipal gathering, I spent some time talking with my friend Nandia Black, the Mayor of our neighboring village of Kildeer. Nandia mentioned that she had not visited some of the newer shops and restaurants in Long Grove, so I offered to personally introduce her to some of my favorite places. Last week, we spent a delightful afternoon together as only two female “heads of state” can do; politics peppered with earl grey and scones, issues amid antiques, strong women supporting each other while simultaneously shopping. Our meeting started with a lovely lunch at High Tea with Gerri, complete with hats and a glass of champagne. In my book, it never hurts to extend a little genteel diplomacy!

Join us on our joyful journey, as chronicled in the following photos:

After lunch we worked off the calories shopping at some of our newer stores. We are pictured here at Epilogue, checking out the beautiful artistic gifts and jewelry.

After lunch we worked off the calories shopping at some of our newer stores. We are pictured here at Epilogue, checking out the beautiful artistic gifts and jewelry.

In between shopping for unique vintage treasures at Two Fancie Gals and Scout and Forge, we stopped to visit with Randy Towner at Mel's and lent some support to his local sentiments.

In between shopping for unique vintage treasures at Two Fancie Gals and Scout and Forge, we stopped to visit with Randy Towner at Mel’s and lent some support to his local sentiments.

After introducing Nandia to the staff at the Information Center, we could not resist a photo op with the cute Valentine teddy bear currently residing at our crossroads.

After introducing Nandia to the staff at the Information Center, we could not resist a photo op with the cute Valentine teddy bear currently residing at our crossroads. Our next stop was at How Impressive, where we were dazzled by the array of personalized gifts available.

What better way to cap off our day than by relaxing and enjoying the friendly ambiance at the Chatterbox.

What better way to cap off our day than by relaxing and enjoying the friendly ambiance at The Chatterbox. Next up, Nandia promises to take me on a tour of her favorite new places in Kildeer. I’ve had so much fun today, I’m even reconsidering building that wall….

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!

Helping Cub Scouts “Build A Better World”

Cub Scouts from Kildeer Elementary Pack 56 and Country Meadows Elementary Pack 964 met with me at Village Hall on January 20th, 2017.

Cub Scouts from Kildeer Elementary Pack 56 and Country Meadows Elementary Pack 964 met with me at Village Hall on January 20th, 2017.

I can’t think of a better way to carry out the spirit of Inauguration Day today than by meeting with (and maybe inspiring) some potential future leaders of our country. It was my pleasure to welcome two 5th grade Cub Scout dens from our local elementary schools to Village Hall this afternoon, and work with them towards achieving their “Build A Better Word” requirement. The boys had great questions for me about my job as Village President, and also about some of the important current issues facing Long Grove. We discussed the Rt. 53 extension, video gaming machines in the downtown, revitalization of our historic business district, and the recent extension of our municipal water system.

To cap off the experience, we had a mini Village Board meeting in which the students got to role play as Village Board members, and sit at the actual table and discuss and debate an actual issue from Tuesday’s upcoming agenda. The topic: Report of the Village Engineer on the options for renovation or replacement of our iconic Covered Bridge. I got to have fun impersonating Mike Shrake, our Village Engineer, and explained the various options of restoring, rebuilding, or expanding our current one lane bridge to two lanes. Opinions varied with some favoring history, some concerned over safety, and others mindful of the fiscal implications. Strikingly similar to our real-life Trustees, I must say! The kids did come to a consensus that our Village Engineers should continue their studies of the variables.

Meeting and interacting with our youngest residents has always been one of the greatest joys of this job for me. The scouts asked me if I had been active in government as a student, and in fact I was a member of Student Council in high school. I learned that many of these boys are also involved in the student government at their elementary schools and have already started gaining leadership skills that will be useful throughout their entire lives. It makes me hopeful for the generations to come, and for all those inaugurations yet to be!

Role playing a mini Village Board meeting and debating a real issue from the upcoming agenda.

Role playing a mini Village Board meeting and debating a real issue from the upcoming agenda.

 

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

CSI: Bench You Can’t Guess What Happened Here

Happening upon a potential crime scene on my way to official mayoral duties.

Happening upon a potential crime scene on my way to official mayoral duties.

Something very strange has happened here in Long Grove. It is a mystery without an answer. I am writing about this today, in hopes that one of my blog readers will be able to provide the Village with some insight into what really occurred.

The Crime Scene:  Archer parking lot, on a beautiful Saturday morning following Apple Fest. In town to participate in a ceremonial ribbon cutting for a new business, I happened on a scene of utter destruction. One of our municipal park benches had been totally dismantled; yanked out of the brick foundation by an unseen force. Was it local vandals or something more sinister? We just don’t know.

The Evidence:  Twisted metal spikes and wooden bench slats laying askew. I did notice a slight lingering odor of cotton candy, and traces of rainbow colored fur caught on the rough edges of some boards. In addition, strange hoof prints were noticed in the adjacent landscape beds. Upon closer inspection, animal droppings of a curious sort were present, dusted with a glittery sparkle. Unicorns? Samples were gathered and sent to the lab for analysis.

Afraid that I would be late for my mayoral duties, I continued on to the ribbon cutting. After interviewing several merchants, I learned that a family of giant ogres had been recently spotted taking up residence underneath our covered bridge. Could they have also seized our bench and accidentally reduced it to a pile of toothpicks? I wonder…

On my way back to the car I passed by the scene again and took another closer look. It was then that I discovered several crushed and limp shamrocks littering the crime scene, and an empty, cracked “pot o’gold” discarded off to one side of the parking lot. Could leprechauns be the culprit here? I contacted the Lake County Sheriff to file an unusual incident report.

First thing Monday morning our crack investigative team from the Ela Township road crew arrived to stabilize the situation. Potential alien DNA was spotted and reported to the authorities. Still, no definitive answers. The bench was reassembled and now seems to be giving off lesser amounts of radiation.

The Conclusion:  We haven’t got a clue. And if this seems a bit far fetched, April Fools! But we still have no idea what really happened to our bench.

 

Looking Ahead for Long Grove

longGroveBridge2016

Last week the Daily Herald asked all the Lake County Mayors to answer this question, “What are you most looking forward to your suburb accomplishing/doing/changing in 2016?” Here is how I answered:

In 2016, I am most looking forward to accomplishing an update to our Village’s Comprehensive Plan, which has not been done since 2000. This process will take the better part of the year and will engage the community in a series of open houses and stakeholder sessions to gather residents opinions on how Long Grove should best plan for the years ahead.  We will be reviewing residential zoning, commercial and economic development opportunities, and the potential changes that controversial issues such as multi-family housing, covered bridge replacement, and the Route 53 extension may bring to our community. We have taken the first step in this process by conducting a Village-wide survey this past summer, and have hired a consulting firm to guide us through this major update.

This and so much more is ahead for Long Grove in the new year–stay tuned to this blog for regular updates!