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.


Peaceful Transition of Power

10th District Congressman Brad Schneider is one of many newly elected officials taking office this month.

10th District Congressman Brad Schneider is one of many newly elected officials taking office this month. This past summer I had the honor of meeting with Brad when he paid a visit to Long Grove to talk to me about our local concerns.

This week our country will be celebrating an inauguration, one in which I know many Americans have mixed emotions. I have no doubt that we will have a hard time escaping the hoopla in all aspects of the media and our personal social networks. What I am keeping forefront in my mind is the fact that we as citizens have traditionally placed a high value on the peaceful transition of power in our democracy. Many national, state, and county representatives have taken the oath this month and are already collaborating to make progress in various ways for the betterment of all. Take a deep breath—and let’s continue to work together with hopes for a brighter tomorrow.

In the words of a famous American, who is honored today with a national holiday in his name:

“We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”

–Martin Luther King Jr.

Give and Take

One of the "Givers" in our community is Joe Barry, shown here on February 9, 2016 accepting the "Citizen of the Year" award from  the Lake Zurich Area Chamber of Commerce. Shown on the right is Ken Grooms, outgoing Chamber President.

One of the “Givers” in our community is Joe Barry, shown here on February 9, 2016 accepting the “Citizen of the Year” award from the Lake Zurich Area Chamber of Commerce. Shown on the right is Ken Grooms, outgoing Chamber President.

Over the past three and a half years, the job of Village President has kept me so busy that it leaves hardly any spare time to devote to one of my favorite activities–reading. But earlier this year, a fellow volunteer recommended a book that was so intriguing I sacrificed sleep to finish it; in fact this book continues to resonate. Called “Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives our Success,” by Adam Grant, it was an enlightening read for anyone in a leadership role such as mine. Using concrete examples, it offered insights into the way we interact with others in the workplace, either as Givers, Takers, or Matchers, and how this can have a profound impact not only on our personal success, but also on the success of our organization.

The examples and ideas in this book have given me much food for thought. The author makes the point that the happiest, most likely to be promoted people, are givers. The individuals who fall into this category make others’ needs a priority. They intuitively help and mentor others, are excellent communicators, and bring out the best in people by recognizing and appreciating their strengths and contributions. As a result, givers are most successful because they garner a network of support over time from others that they’ve helped. However, here’s the catch…givers can also be the least successful people if they allow themselves to be exploited by the takers, those who give strategically.  Givers burn out if they do not see some sort of result from their efforts, some sense of contribution to the greater good. The key, Grant writes, is to engage in “otherish giving,” which ultimately separates successful from unsuccessful givers. Give, but make sure it is to people and things that you care about, where you receive a larger sense of purpose. Give, but not when it comes at the expense of your own health, or personal and work satisfaction. Many of our commitments in life, professional and civic, involve the push and pull of giving and receiving. To be a good citizen, or a good worker, we often extend ourselves to help or serve others with the hopes that down the road we will all be better off for it. It’s not motivated by a selfish quest for success; the givers among us have simply evolved to be really good at cooperation and empathy. A favorite passage:  “This is what I find most magnetic about successful givers: they get to the top without cutting others down, finding ways of expanding the pie that benefit themselves and the people around them. Whereas success is zero-sum in a group of takers, in groups of givers, it may be true that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.”

It is exciting to ponder what new opportunities might be waiting for me as I round the corner into 2017. I hope you share a similar sense of anticipation for the New Year ahead, and that in this holiday season, the spirit of giving brings much happiness into your own life.

Election Day is Here

Long Grove Historical Society members (L to R) Gerri Campbell, Diane Trickey, and Aaron Underwood wearing the stars and stripes and reminding us to do our patriotic duty today by voting!

Long Grove Historical Society members (L to R) Gerri Campbell, Diane Trickey, and Aaron Underwood wear the stars and stripes and remind us to do our patriotic duty today by voting!

After listening to months of contentious campaigning, the end of our 2016 election season is now in sight. Finally, the American people are able to come together and make a decision today, and I hope that you will be among those casting a vote. I know it has been ugly…really ugly…but as I’ve said before, Democracy is Messy. Even if you are disappointed in some of the choices we are asked to make, I urge you to exercise your power at the polls and be part of the direction our country takes.

Many of our local, state, and county races are hotly contested as well, and your input is needed. As Village President, I am in the incredibly fortunate position of having been able to meet and get to know personally many of the state and county individuals running for office on my ballot. And still, some of the choices are difficult. But I have great faith in our American system of government. If we all do our part and vote, then we all enable our elected leaders to come together and work towards making progress on needed changes. Today is the day…let your voice be heard!

“I Thought It Was Menopause, But It Was Just The Village”

Preparing to cast my vote during the 2016 Spring elections. In the next municipal election in Spring of 2017, my name will not be on the ballot.

Casting my vote during the 2016 Spring elections. During the next municipal election in Spring of 2017, my name will not be on the ballot.

To combat stress and keep my memory sharp, I play an occasional game of Bridge with a lovely group of ladies. We are all of a certain age. Recently, the table talk was about the trouble several of us are having getting a decent night’s sleep. Starting last summer and all through the fall and winter, I have not slept well and many mornings woken up before daylight and been unable to stop worrying, mostly, about Long Grove. But in May of this year, I came to a decision that has given me such a sense of peace. In fact, I have been sleeping like a baby all summer long. I have decided not to seek a second term as Village President. The realization hit me during our bridge game conversation, “I thought it was a menopause, but as it turns out, it was just the Village!”

When I ran for office I fully expected that the job would require a major time commitment and involve some difficult and controversial decisions. While true, this does not deter me as I am a hard worker and not afraid of taking a stand on an issue or breaking a tie or two (or in this case, 14 15!) for the good of the whole, regardless of the personal backlash. I have simply wanted to contribute my genuine love and concern for the community, and my experience as a leader to help our residents through some challenging years. It has been an honor and a privilege to serve Long Grove in this capacity. At the end of my term I will have spent six years volunteering on the village board and I believe I have given to the best of my abilities in this position. Throughout it has been a learning experience and I have many good memories to carry forward.

However, what I was not anticipating was the degree to which this job would impact my quality of life. Serving as a mayor is truly a 24/7 responsibility, no matter the size of your town or the magnitude of the issues. I am thinking and working on some aspect of the Village of Long Grove nearly every day. This has increasingly become the case as our village board continues to struggle to work together as a team, despite mutual acknowledgement that this is what is most needed for success. It is frustrating and exhausting to have to make the dysfunctional, functional. What I have experienced is that very little of my time and energy is left over to give to my loved ones, myself, and other worthy causes and activities that I enjoy. I do not regret the sacrifices made, but it is time now to reset my priorities. This decision has taken into account the advice and feelings of many caring people who have supported me over these past years. The satisfaction of serving my community has been great, but I’m ready to move on to the next adventure.

I am hopeful that several candidates from the greater community will be motivated to come forward and throw their hats into the ring. Change is good! Many residents have been highly engaged in the variety of controversial issues that have come before the board in recent years and perhaps we will see some of these outspoken individuals step up to the challenge of elected office. I have often remarked that the position of Village President was not one that I was seeking, but rather I found that the position was seeking me. Long Grove is now seeking a future leader who has the capacity to serve something bigger than self. Someone who can listen to others and take advice, is even-tempered, and possesses the skills needed to work towards compromise on the many diverse issues and potential changes on the horizon. Perhaps that person could be you?

Camp CEO: Mentoring with a side of S’mores

Happy Campers: Arriving at Camp CEO and being greeted by my mentee, Trinity.

Happy Campers: Arriving at Camp CEO and being greeted by my mentee, Trinity.

Last week I participated in what will surely be remembered as one of the highlights of my summer–camping with the Girl Scouts! In it’s tenth year, Camp CEO is a premier leadership camp for teen girls and high-level professionals held at Camp Butternut Springs in Valparaiso, Indiana. I was invited to attend as one of the 25 female “CEOs” along with 40 high-achieving Girl Scouts selected from the Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana Council who applied and wrote essays to participate. I had not been camping since my days as a leader with my daughter’s troop 20 years ago, and it was incredible fun to be hiking, swimming, and singing songs around the campfire once again.

In addition to these traditional camp activities, what made Camp CEO so special was the opportunity to mentor the girls one-on-one and share stories, life experiences, advice and inspiration. I was fortunate to be paired with Trinity, an impressively smart and sweet girl from Chicago who aspires to be a doctor. I really enjoyed spending time with my mentee as well as all the girls at camp and I was continually amazed by the thoughtful questions the girls asked. They were truly focused on learning and absorbing as much as possible from their time with the adult mentors. Women were present from a wide variety of professions such as science, technology, law, government, finance, communications, entrepreneurs, and more. I was asked to lead a workshop on networking and social etiquette in politics, which challenged me to step out of my box a bit to design a seminar. But I had a ball doing it, and the girls really seemed to enjoy discussing the role of women in elected office particularly in light of the history being made this year in our U. S. Presidential race.

One activity that seemed to really resonate with adults and girls alike was the “Dreaming Your Future” tradition. A couple of times each day, everyone would gather around the fireplace or campfire, and listen as three or four of the CEOs took center stage and shared their own life story and pathway to leadership. As usual, the girls had intriguing questions to ask. I found it so interesting that every woman’s story showcased the fact that most of us are not doing what we thought our careers would be when we were in high school or college–in most cases our journey has taken twists and turns to lead us to a place we never dreamed possible. I know that I never planned on becoming a Village President when I was majoring in Foods-Nutrition/Dietetics during my college days!

As luck would have it, the day I chose to arrive at camp, August 10th,  just happened to be National S’mores Day–score!! Who knew it was a thing? But I cannot imagine a better place on earth to be on National S’mores Day than at Girl Scout Camp! We celebrated with a fabulous bonfire, singalong, marshmallows toasted on sticks, and a few mosquitoes to complete the woodsy atmosphere.  I discovered a new taste sensation–using a peanut butter cup sandwiched between the graham crackers and marshmallow, in place of the traditional plain chocolate bar. I am still thinking about how delicious that tasted–maybe the fresh air and female empowerment are enhancing the memory?

Camp CEO was an all-around wonderful experience. I’m grateful that we have organizations such as Girl Scouts to provide opportunities like this, which bond women and girls together to inspire the next generation of leaders. But the inspiration works both ways, because I came home uplifted by Trinity and all the other young women I now know who give me hope for a bright future for us all.

Adding our hopes and wishes to the "Dreaming Your Future" dream-catcher at Camp CEO.

Adding our hopes and wishes to the “Dreaming Your Future” dream-catcher at Camp CEO.

Changing of the Guard

(L to R) New Village Clerk Amy Gayton, Village President Angie Underwood, retiring Village Clerk Heidi Locker-Scheer.

(L to R) New Village Clerk Amy Gayton, Village President Angie Underwood, retiring Village Clerk Heidi Locker-Scheer.

At the Village Board meeting on July 12th we celebrated the retirement of Village Clerk Heidi Locker-Scheer, and welcomed the newest member of our team with the swearing in of Amy Gayton as our incoming Village Clerk. The transition went smoothly and while it was bittersweet to say farewell to such a valued member of the Board, Heidi is moving on to a new position at work and we are happy for her career success. The Village is lucky to have Amy step forward to volunteer at this time; she has previously coordinated the Archer School program for the Historical Society and donates many hours assisting with the festivals and activities of the Historic Downtown Business Association. Amy will serve as clerk for the remainder of the current term, which expires in April of 2017. Welcome, Amy!

When I took office as Village President one of my first duties was to appoint a Village Clerk as no one had run for the open seat in the election. Let’s face it, the clerk job is not terribly glamorous as it can be time consuming and precise, is a non-voting role, and of course lacks a paycheck. I hesitated to ask Heidi to volunteer as she works full-time in downtown Chicago, but knew her civic interest and leadership skills would be a perfect fit. Heidi has done an excellent job over the past three years keeping track of the meeting minutes and carrying out her election duties, leaving behind the legacy of a valuable contribution to our Village. Her faithful support and calm professionalism will be greatly missed by staff and board members alike, and we are thankful for her service over the years to the residents of Long Grove. Best wishes, Heidi!

Birthday Wishes For Some Leading Ladies

Some of the women attending the recent WINGS celebration: (seated L to R) Cheri Neal, Zion Township Supervisor and current WINGS President, and

Some of the women attending the recent WINGS 30th Birthday celebration: (seated L to R) Cheri Neal, Zion Township Supervisor and current WINGS President, and Evelyn Alexander, Founding Member. (Back row L to R) Cynthia Alexander, Mara Grujanac, Village of Lincolnshire Trustee, Nancy Rotering, City of Highland Park Mayor, Alyssa Knobel, Highland Park Trustee, and Angie Underwood, Village of Long Grove Village President.

This past week marked a milestone in history as Hillary Clinton became the first woman to secure major party support to be placed on the November ballot for President of the United States. Being raised in nearby Park Ridge, Hillary has her roots in Illinois and we do seem to have a heritage of strong women leaders here in our neck of the woods. Today I want to celebrate the birthdays of just a couple of examples.

Having a chat with Barbara Turner

Having a chat with Barbara Turner in December of 2014

All of us in Long Grove are delighted to send our best wishes to Barbara Turner today, June 13, 2016, as she celebrates her 97th birthday! Barbara and her family have been instrumental in preserving and sharing some of our high-quality open spaces and natural areas in the Village, as well as advocating for conservation efforts throughout Lake County. Barbara has been a resident of Long Grove since her youth, and has served the community in many capacities over the years. She is well known to a generation of students as the librarian at Kildeer Countryside School, and was one of the founders of the Long Grove Historical Society, serving as curator and co-authoring a book about our local history. These days Barbara is less able to get out in her beloved nature preserve and battle back the invasive species, but we all know if she could be alongside the interns at Reed-Turner pulling garlic mustard today, she would be! Happy Birthday, Barbara.

Another happy milestone was the 30th Birthday Celebration that I recently attended for a group know as WINGS (Women Interested/In Government Service). This Lake County organization was created to encourage women to seek elected office and offer support and education for those women in leadership roles and interested in the political process. This group meets three times a year and offers inspiring speakers and valuable networking, as well as sponsoring an annual college scholarship. The birthday celebration featured a panel discussion with founding members of WINGS discussing their original dream for the organization back in 1986, and their hopes as we move forward. As we saw in the national events of last week, the contributions of women as leaders in America is a story that continues to be told.

A Big Announcement

Meeting up with Lake County Board Chairman Aaron Lawlor in January of this year.

Meeting up with Lake County Board Chairman Aaron Lawlor in January of this year.

Earlier today a press release was issued by our Lake County Board Chairman, Aaron Lawlor, explaining his current thoughts on the Route 53/120 Extension Project. A key supporter of the project since the Blue Ribbon Advisory Report (BRAC)was adopted in 2012, Chairman Lawlor now believes that due to “dynamics that have changed over the past several months, it has become clear that the financial and political realities have become insurmountable.” A main concern is that “critical environmental and community protections will be cut in an effort to minimize costs.” In addition, he fears that the situation “will only get worse the longer gridlock persists in Springfield. Legislators cannot agree in the short-term on a budget to fund essential services let alone have the long-term vision to enact the legislation necessary to form the environmental stewardship fund, which is a key component of the Route 53/120 project.”

For decades, the proposed path of this road extension has been slated to run through Long Grove. Our community has opposed this project for many years and the Village Board passed a resolution this past October reaffirming this position. Having our County Board Chairman come out today suggesting that “the best thing for Lake County would be to stop the Environmental Impact Statement and refocus our attention on a sustainable vision for the current Route 53/120 corridor and plan for necessary improvements to our County’s current transportation network,” was big news to everyone following this issue.

Chairman Lawlor called me this morning before the news went public and while I was surprised by the announcement, I was not shocked. When I first took office, Aaron and I met for breakfast and I was very frank about my concerns about this project, that I was personally not in support of it and worried about the financial obstacles of building it in a way that would protect our sensitive environmental areas in Long Grove. Chairman Lawlor stated that he was adamant that the Tollway and IDOT adhere to the enhanced environmental standards identified in the BRAC report, and in his mind these were non-negotiable. These recommendations set more aggressive standards for stormwater management, light and noise pollution, water quality, plant and wildlife health, salt spray and other important safeguards. Since that first meeting, these sentiments have been reiterated over and over in our conversations about this project. I believed Chairman Lawlor when he pledged to pull back his support if he felt the Tollway or IDOT was not living up to their commitments. The integrity shown today was not a surprise.

I feel that it shows great strength to thoughtfully reconsider a position on an issue, and make a new decision in light of current information. This is a character trait that I think we all want in our leaders. It takes courage to try and change course once the journey has gotten underway, and endure the criticism that is sure to come. Elected officials are often faced with tough choices. I am grateful that our County is served by those deserving of our sincere trust and respect.

Girl’s Leadership Tea

Enjoying High Tea with Buffalo Grove Village President Beverly Sussman (4th from left) and area Girl Scout leaders on April 14th.

Enjoying High Tea with Buffalo Grove Village President Beverly Sussman (4th from left) and area Girl Scout leaders on April 14th.

As a female in the predominantly male field of politics, I think it is important to do what we can as women and mothers to encourage leadership in young women. My neighbor and colleague Beverly Sussman, Village President of Buffalo Grove shares this sentiment, and recently the two of us teamed up to host a Leadership Tea for local Girl Scouts. Last Thursday, fifteen girls from Long Grove, Buffalo Grove, and Arlington Heights joined us at Gerri’s Tea Room in Long Grove to enjoy a three course High Tea complete with finger sandwiches, pastries, and freshly baked scones with cream. As we were supping on our English Breakfast & Earl Grey blend, Gerri (who grew up in Ireland) provided us with some history on teatime customs and etiquette.

As we learned, the tradition of sharing tea is really more about the conversation than the food (although those scones were scrumptious!) To that end, Beverly and I engaged the girls in some conversation about our jobs as Village Presidents, and how our different leadership roles throughout life have lead us to the positions that we now hold. We talked about how women have unique contributions to make to this world, and encouraged the girls to rely on those strengths, say yes to opportunities in life, and not be afraid to “reach for the stars.” The idea was to enjoy a relaxing ladies afternoon together and hopefully provide some inspiration for the future.

The Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana also blogged about this event. Click here to read more.


Gerri Gwarnicki (in green dress at right) explains the proper way to drink from a china tea cup.