Remembering Lee

Lee Bassett was my favorite docent to partner with at the Ruth Barn. Here he is pictured with one of the pitchforks he loved to showcase.

Lee Bassett was my favorite docent to partner with at the Ruth Barn. Here he is pictured with one of the pitchforks he loved to showcase.

Every community has those unique individuals who seem to pop up everywhere that help is needed; who simply have a heart for public service. Long Grove lost one of these treasures yesterday, with the passing of Lee Bassett. Lee was a compact dynamo, tireless in his dedication to our Village and generous with his time and passion. Lee was responsible for calling me up and asking me to serve on the Historical Society board way back in 1999. He was the kind of volunteer we all look up to as a role model of servant leadership.

One of his biggest contributions to Long Grove was serving as President of the Long Grove Park District. Lee donated countless hours as a local environmentalist and caretaker of his own heavily wooded property and various public open spaces throughout the village. I loved seeing Lee and his good friend Bob Borg out in my neighborhood every May, sporting backpacks and sprayers in their never-ending battle against invasive teasel. Lee also served for many years as our Long Grove Historical Society Vice-President, and as a docent for thousands of children who have participated in our Archer School and Ruth Barn field trip programs. Some of Lee’s favorite items to show and tell were the pitchforks in our collection, and how they each had a varied and specific use. His infectious enthusiasm would get the kids wound up, then I had the challenge of making them sit still and practice their penmanship in the schoolhouse! Lee loved to entertain as well as educate, and was a fellow castmate in our “Long Grove Lurid Legends” Halloween show a decade ago. He got such a kick out of playing a member of the real life “Newton Gang,” who robbed a train right here in Lake County. Both kids and adults delighted in his presence.

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Lee will be remembered at a “Casual Gathering of the Friends of Lee” next Wednesday, July 25th, from 1:00-4:00 in the afternoon at Reed-Turner Woodland Nature Center. He will certainly be missed by all those that he has touched during his years here in Long Grove. He was a friend and an inspiration.

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St. Paddy’s Day at the Brewery

Celebrating St. Patrick's Day at Buffalo Creek Brewing with owner Mike Marr (left) and local historian Aaron Underwood.

Celebrating St. Patrick’s Day at Buffalo Creek Brewing with owner Mike Marr (left) and local historian Aaron Underwood.

Long Grove is a great place to celebrate your Irish heritage on St. Patrick’s Day. Whether it’s a trip to Paddy’s on the Square for beautiful Ireland-inspired gifts, green beer at the Village Tavern, Corned Beef at the Chatterbox, or a mint chocolate chip cone at the new Covered Bridge Creamery, our Village is a festive spot to gather for the holiday. This year features another new option as Buffalo Creek Brewing hosts a day-long St. Patrick’s Day Party, featuring free Green Eggs and Hash, a special price on their “Burning Red” craft beer, and evening entertainment.

My husband Aaron and I stopped by the party this afternoon to congratulate Mike Marr, owner of Buffalo Creek Brewing and the newly installed President of the Historic Downtown Long Grove Business Association. In appreciation of his commitment of time and leadership to the downtown, (and being that he is a next-door neighbor to the farmhouse museum) the Historical Society presented Mike with a gift of a framed historical print of his choice. His selection, shown in the photo above, is of the Long Grove Crackerjacks baseball team, circa 1908. This was one of several “town ball” baseball teams that existed a century ago, with games played against other local teams such as Palatine and Lake Zurich. Mike likes to distinguish his craft beers with clever names, often a play on words or with a local significance. His newest creation is called “Muttersholtz,” the name originally given to Long Grove in the 1840’s by the early settlers who came here from the Alsace-Lorraine region in Germany. Maybe the picture will inspire a future craft beer that pairs well with baseball games and caramel corn?

Mike also mentioned that he is starting his canning operation in the downstairs of the Brewery starting this coming Tuesday. Compared to bottles, cans have many advantages for beer, two of which are keeping out unnecessary light and oxygen. So not only will your favorite beers be crafted right here in downtown Long Grove, but they will soon be canned locally as well.

However you choose to treat yourself, have a Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Women United

Attending the Power of the Purse event on Nov. 5, 2017 (L to R) standing: Heidi Locker-Scheer, Maria Rodriguez, Vicki Juster, Jenny Sen-Gupta, Angie Underwood. Seated: Melissa Dickstein, Nandia Black, and Diane Trickey.

Attending the Power of the Purse event on Nov. 5, 2017 (L to R) standing: Heidi Locker-Scheer, Maria Rodriguez, Vicki Juster, Jenny Sen-Gupta, Angie Underwood. Seated: Melissa Dickstein, Nandia Black, and Diane Trickey.

Retiring from the Village Board six months ago has allowed me to reset my priorities on how I spend my volunteer hours. One group that I have chosen to focus on is the Women’s Leadership Council of the United Way of Lake County (soon to be called “Women United”), where I serve on the Steering Committee. This wonderful group of 90+ female leaders is committed to improving early childhood literacy in Lake County through philanthropy and volunteerism. Our network of women has been able to grant $100,000 this year alone to programs that serve children in areas of most need, helping them to be prepared for kindergarten and ready to succeed in school. Some of the communities most impacted by our work include Waukegan, Zion, North Chicago and Round Lake.

But it was Long Grove that played a central role in the story of WLC yesterday, as our major fundraiser for the year, Power of the Purse, was held at Royal Melbourne Country Club. I was honored to sponsor a table of local “women of influence” (many of whom are pictured above) including a former Village Clerk, two former Village Presidents, and a current Mayor. In between enjoying mimosas and brunch we were able to bid on purses and silent auction baskets, have fun playing games and winning prizes, and donate books and educational toys to children served in the “Little Kids, Big Futures” funded programs. It was an altogether lovely day but what made me smile the most was the sea of hands that went up when asked to sponsor one child for a week of Kindergarten Countdown Camp. When passionate, powerful, and committed women come together in the spirit of philanthropy, it’s a beautiful thing to behold.

Nov. 15, 2017 Update: A total of $49,500 in net donations was raised at the Power of the Purse event this year. Nice job, ladies!!

Wonder Woman is the inspirational "mascot" of Women United. Three members of the Steering Committee had fun channeling her power at the recent Leadership Summit in Cincinnati last month.

Wonder Woman is the inspirational “mascot” of Women United. Three members of the Steering Committee had fun channeling her power at the 2017 Leadership Summit in Cincinnati last month.

Long Grove Leaders of Tomorrow

On October 3, 2017 I was honored to help Girl Scout Troop #40436 with their bridging ceremony. Just look at these joyful smiles!

On October 3, 2017 I was honored to help Girl Scout Troop #40436 with their bridging ceremony. Just look at these joyful smiles!

Earlier this month I was asked to host a Brownie Troop from Country Meadows School at our Historical Society farmhouse. They wanted my help in learning about Long Grove history as part of a merit badge, and also were interested to hear about my experience in serving as Village President. As a former Girl Scout myself, I am always thrilled to help another generation of girls prepare to take the lead themselves one day. It was a joy for me to be invited to participate in their bridging ceremony as they advanced from Brownie Scouts to Junior Girl Scouts, by crossing over our historic covered bridge. Congratulations Troop #40436!

These girls are our future politicians, scientists, teachers, military officers, doctors, entrepreneurs, moms, community volunteers, and so much more. Right now though, they are hopeful and eager to learn, full of energy and high spirits for the adventures life holds for them. Over the last century, Girl Scouting has provided premier opportunities for our girls to develop confidence in themselves and their abilities. Valuable leadership skills are gained from female role models. In the U.S., 90 percent of female astronauts, 80 percent of female tech leaders, and 75 percent of current female senators are Girl Scout alumnae.

In the news this week was the announcement that the Boy Scouts of America will begin to admit girls as members of their organization. I think it is great that more and more opportunities are opening up to encourage girls to grow up to be leaders. The need for broader female leadership is clear. Girl Scouts excell in empowering girls with the tools to make this happen, and I am proud to continue to support the best girl leadership experts in the world.

Getting ready to tour our Long Grove Historical Society farmhouse.

Getting ready to tour our Long Grove Historical Society farmhouse.

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!

Mentors and Heroes

Current elected officials with future elected officials at the April 15th WINGS meeting:  (L to R) Cheri Neal, Zion Township Supervisor, Teagan (our scholarship winner), Brighton (Teagan's sister) and Angie Underwood, Long Grove Village President.

Current elected officials with future elected officials at the April 15th WINGS meeting: (L to R) Cheri Neal, Zion Township Supervisor, Teagan (our scholarship winner), Brighton (Teagan’s sister) and Angie Underwood, Long Grove Village President.

Last weekend I attended a meeting of WINGS–Women In Government Service. Our theme for the program was “Mentoring and Heroes” which was certainly appropriate as we presented our annual High School scholarship. Teagan, who is our winner this year out of an incredibly talented pool of candidates, is graduating next month from Lakes Community High School in Lake Villa. She is heading to Dartmouth this fall to study government, and aspires to one day be a Senator.

Another young lady, a 5th grade student from Prairie Trail Middle School in Wadsworth, was at the meeting to give a short presentation. She is a member of the Great Americans Club, which is a civic group for students (both boys and girls) at the school. Every year they pick an issue to spotlight, and as a result of our national election last November the students are focusing on Women’s Leadership. They are sponsoring a Women’s Day Celebration Event on May 18th, featuring guest speakers on how women have shaped our world.

One of the very best things about holding an elected office is being in a position to show the next generation of women that it is possible. We are getting there slowly, but surely towards breaking that final glass ceiling. I have been fortunate to have had several women serve as role models and mentors to me. Their advice, expertise, and support has made a real impact in my ability to grow as a leader, and persevere through difficult challenges. Being able to pass along that legacy of encouragement to others has been very rewarding.

These girls make me so proud. They are our future. They are my inspiration.

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!

League of Extraordinary Mayors

Celebrating at the Metropolitan Mayors Caucus Gala on January 27, 2017 with Joe Mancino, Mayor of Hawthorn Woods on my left, and Mandi Florip, Executive Director of the Lake County Municipal League.

Celebrating at the Metropolitan Mayors Caucus Gala on January 27, 2017 with Joe Mancino, Mayor of Hawthorn Woods (on the left), and Mandi Florip, Executive Director of the Lake County Municipal League (on the right).

Serving as Village President has presented me with many opportunities, one of the best of which has been the chance to work alongside and get to know my counterparts in Lake County. I consider it a real privilege to have collaborated with and learned from some truly dedicated public servants, several of which I now consider friends. Cultivating and maintaining relationships of trust and mutual respect between our neighboring communities is a key role that I have made one of my priorities these last four years. It takes an investment of time, but one that can reap benefits for the Village both now, and into the future.

Long Grove is a member of several inter-governmental groups, most notably the Illinois Municipal League, Metropolitan Mayors Caucus, and Lake County Municipal League. I also have opportunities each month to represent Long Grove and interact with my fellow Mayors at County-wide meetings, events, summits, task forces, and open houses. We even have an informal “mayors lunch bunch” that convenes from time to time when the need for mutual support arises.

As we enter into the last month of election season leading up to the April 4th voting day, I want to send my best wishes to all my mayoral colleagues running again for another term. I am grateful for the experience of having served alongside some of the best citizens I will ever come to know.

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.

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“Nevertheless, she persisted.”

Heeding the feminist rally cry at Beans & Leaves Coffee (L to R): Angie Underwood, Amy Gayton, Diane Trickey, Myra Buettner, and Marie Roth.

Heeding the feminist rally cry at Beans & Leaves Coffee (L to R): Angie Underwood, Amy Gayton, Diane Trickey, Myra Buettner, and Marie Roth.

The “huddle” of Long Grove residents pictured above may appear ladylike and well-mannered. And we are. Some of us are artists, educators, humanitarians, leaders, elected officials, and excellent cooks and hostesses. All of us share a love for history. A few of us participated in the Women’s Marches held last month throughout our country. Most of us have written, called, or talked in person to our State and National representatives in the last few weeks. Some of us have been at this a long time, and others have been motivated by more recent national headlines. We are diverse but united in our desire to see a more tolerant, respectful, and inclusive community here in Long Grove and in our county, state and country.  We have many ideas on how to channel our positive energy and will be joining with others in the months ahead to put those ideas into action.

We have been warned. We have been given an explanation. And we will persist.