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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!

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.

Such a Financial State

(L to R) Long Grove Village President Angie Underwood, Hawthorn Woods Mayor Joe Mancino, and Illinois Comptroller Leslie Munger at the July 14th Lake County Municipal League Meeting.

(L to R) Long Grove Village President Angie Underwood, Hawthorn Woods Mayor Joe Mancino, and Illinois Comptroller Leslie Munger at the July 14th Lake County Municipal League Meeting.

Last month I attended the quarterly Lake County Municipal League meeting and had the opportunity to hear our State Comptroller, Leslie Munger, speak in her hometown of Lincolnshire. What resonated with me the most is the precarious financial state we find ourselves in at the moment. Let’s just say that the news was not comforting to hear.

Illinois has not had a budget in place for over a year now. In June of 2016 some “stopgap funding” was passed that will be in place until December. Some of the groups receiving this temporary funding are: K-12 schools, Universities & Colleges, nonprofits providing human services, Veterans homes, Lottery winners, 911 call centers, road construction, and local governments. While the stopgap funds are allowing these organizations and projects to continue until the end of the year and through the fall elections, Comptroller Munger described these measures as a “band-aid.” Right now Illinois has a backlog of $8 Billion in unpaid bills, which is estimated to grow to $10 Billion by December. Currently our state has accrued $116 Billion in unfunded pension obligations. Sobering statistics, indeed.

Long term, Illinois needs a plan. Comptroller Munger feels that just raising taxes is not a solution, as we already are burdened with high property taxes, particularly in Lake County. Some of the ideas she put forward to improve the situation include:

  • Reducing Costs–through consolidation, and also being more efficient in our state government
  • Raising Revenues–by growing our economy and expanding our tax base
  • Lowering the Cost of Doing Business in Illinois–including eliminating burdensome unfunded mandates
  • Holding the Line on Property Taxes–very little increase
  • Constitutional Pension Reform–must be achieved to curb the rapidly escalating financial obligations

So with all of this doom and gloom, how do we all remain hopeful that things can and will change? Leslie left us on a positive note with her view that the financial challenges of Illinois can be overcome with state legislators who are willing to work together to reach a consensus and compromise. Illinois is blessed with many assets such as:  transportation, a skilled work force, high quality education, abundant water, rich farmland, and a strong IT and advanced industry.

I am keeping my fingers crossed that the November elections will spark some positive change, one that will result in a workable plan to get our state back on track financially. It is possible. And it is up to all of us to let those in Springfield know that we expect nothing less. Hearing Comptroller Munger speak motivated me to call and email my state senator with my thoughts and concerns, and ask what I can do to help. You can do the same. Like it or not, we are all in this together!

Like a Pig on a Spit

Adam Ullrich of the Village Tavern helped prepare for the annual Veteran's Pig Roast on July 24, 2016.

Adam Ullrich of the Village Tavern helped prepare for the annual Veterans Pig Roast held on Sunday, July 24, 2016.

As an elected official, there are times when I feel like a pig on a spit–slowly raked over the coals primarily for the enjoyment of others; because they can, because they’re bored, because it boosts their ego. Hey, I get the dynamic–why else would I read the celebrity gossip in People magazine? But in local politics this type of harassment, while entertaining, comes with a cumulative downside. The flaming controversy over a raffle held at the Village Tavern’s Veterans Pig Roast this past weekend is a perfect example.

Chip and Mary Ann Ullrich, owners of the Tavern, have generously hosted this event every summer for the past seven years as a way to publicly honor and thank our military veterans. Chip himself is a veteran from the Vietnam era. Widely promoted and well attended, this celebration is seen as a positive reflection on our community. The pig roast and entertainment are free for our veterans, and the festivities also feature a raffle with the proceeds to benefit local VFW Post 5151 and Midwest Veterans Closet charity organization. This raffle required an application for permission of the Village Board, which was unanimously granted. The Village is supportive of the intentions behind this event, as are the many residents who volunteer annually to make it a success. A win-win for all concerned.

However, a local woman has caused a stink this past week in her attempts to get the raffle invalidated on the grounds that it is illegal gambling. She has made numerous calls to village hall, resulting in a FOIA request for staff to comply with, as well as time from our village attorney, village employees, the Ullrichs and myself. All of this to get notoriety for herself and publicity for her cause. Long Grove seems to be an attractive place for those who like to seek attention by agitating over an emotional issue.

In today’s turbulent times we have no shortage of serious issues to become worked up about. But a raffle to benefit legitimate local veterans organizations is not one of them. This week, staff time (taxpayer funded) and volunteer time (a precious resource) has been used once again to satisfy the demands of community activists looking for recognition in the name of their cause. In my term as Village President I have seen this dynamic over and again with various local issues. When the dust settles, little is ever accomplished aside from the fact that the battle serves to chip away at our limited finances and morale just a tiny bit more. Why is this tolerated? Is it serving the greater good and righting injustice? Maybe not…..but perhaps somebody, somewhere, is enjoying the entertainment?

Everyone Loves a Parade

Back Row: Lake County Board Chairman Aaron Lawlor. Front Row: Long Grove residents Angie Underwood, Vicki Juster, Heidi Locker-Scheer, and Rick Juster.

Back Row: Lake County Board Chairman Aaron Lawlor. Front Row: Long Grove residents Angie Underwood, Vicki Juster, Heidi Locker-Scheer, and Rick Juster.

What’s the 4th of July without a parade, and what’s a parade without a few politicians? Several Long Grove residents helped me ring in our 2016 Independence Day by participating in the annual Vernon Hills parade earlier this morning. We had fun supporting our Lake County Board Chairman while getting in our daily 10,000 steps.

Here’s to the red, white & blue, and a safe and happy holiday everyone!