Happy New Year!

Relaxing with UnWined Partner Maggie Iverson (center) and Village Trustee Lori Lyman (right).

Relaxing with UnWined Partner Maggie Iverson (center) and Village Trustee Lori Lyman (right) earlier this Fall.

Where does the time go? Here we are ready to ring in a new year, and I’m realizing that I have actually managed to keep a resolution that I made at the start of 2015–to create and maintain a blog. Like most of us, my resolutions usually last a month or two at most before old habits win out or will power wanes. But I have enjoyed the challenge of keeping up with the blog posts and I greatly appreciate all the feedback from my readers. So I’m asking all of you to help me keep the momentum going. One of my goals for the new year is to grow the number of blog subscribers, so if you like to keep informed by reading these occasional stories about life in Long Grove, please pass the word along to friends and neighbors. Clicking the envelope button at the top of the post allows you to email it to one of your contacts. Also, I have not run out of ideas yet for blog topics, but if you have something in mind that you would like to see me write about, suggestions are welcomed!

Downtown Long Grove has several cozy spots to toast the new year including the wine bar “UnWined” which opened this past summer. The fire pits and outdoor seating on Towner Green are not as easily enjoyed in January, but the indoor bar, fireplace and chocolate & cheese boards are a warm enticement on a cold winter’s night. I’m looking forward to checking out our newest restaurant, Village Pizza and BBQ, which opens in early January, and the addition of Finch’s Beer Tap Room later this year. Wherever you choose to celebrate, I hope that this next year brings you peace, happiness, and prosperity.

Cheers to 2016!

Bob Borg Bridge

Family members of Bob Borg stand at the entrance to the newly renovated and dedicated bridge on October 21, 2015.

Family members of Bob Borg stand at the entrance to the newly renovated and dedicated bridge on October 21, 2015.

As 2015 winds to a close it is natural to take a look back at all the changes one year can bring. Some things are gained and carry forward into the new year, and some things remain behind in our memories. Earlier this year we said goodbye to one of my favorite residents, Bob Borg, who was a member of our Conservancy & Scenic Corridor Committee, Park District Board of Trustees, and Historical Society. Bob donated countless hours of his time over the years to maintain the open spaces and historical buildings that give our Village some of its distinctive character. This Fall the bridge leading over the creek from Village Hall to the Archer one-room schoolhouse was renovated, a project that Bob had initiated. Our bridge is now safe for the students who visit on field trips and accessible for wheelchairs and riding lawnmowers, and yet it maintains the country charm. I know that Bob would be pleased. To honor his contributions and legacy to Long Grove, the Historical Society placed a monument stone at the entrance to the bridge on October 21st. The stone is large and sturdy (just like Bob) and set at a laid-back angle (he was a laid-back kinda guy!) and was christened with a toast and a sacrificial bottle of whiskey (don’t worry, the contents had been previously enjoyed).

So as we move on into 2016, let us remember those special people and memories that for 2015 marked a turning point. The new year ahead is certain to bring some changes, for our Village as well as in each of our own lives. I will close with a quote that I like from former President John F. Kennedy:

“Change is the law of life, and those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.”

Holiday Support for Veterans

Rotarians (L to R) Ross Spencer, Jim Runnfeldt, George Dorner, Karl Riehn, and Robert Mintz prepare to deliver Thanksgiving meals to area Veterans.

Rotarians (L to R) Ross Spencer, Jim Runnfeldt, George Dorner, Karl Riehn, and Robert Mintz prepare to deliver Thanksgiving meals to area Veterans.

Smokin’ T’s in Long Grove is hands-down my favorite place for BBQ. But my love for this restaurant grows even greater this time of year because of what they do for our Veterans.

Chef Tom Gescheidle and his family are the owners of Smokin’ T’s, and since 2008 they have offered the Military Meal Deal Program. Each year the staff spends hundreds of hours preparing over 6,000 pounds of fully cooked holiday meals which are then delivered at Thanksgiving and Christmas to the individual homes of over 150 Lake County veterans. Each meal is completely cooked and ready to feed between 9 and 12 family members.

The restaurant works closely with the Veterans Assistant Program to help those military families most in need of supplemental nutrition. Bringing families together over the holidays with healthy food lets the veterans know others are thinking of them and is a real cause for celebration.

I really like this program not only for the way that it honors our local veterans, but also because it gives customers and local groups the opportunity to give back. Long Grove families like mine have an easy way to directly make a difference by donating meals. Local service groups such as the Rotary Club of Long Grove, Kildeer & Hawthorn Woods and students from Stevenson High School get to thank the veterans themselves while personally delivering the meals on Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Eve. This program is a win-win for everyone involved!

It takes a lot of hard work and organization to make this happen every year, and for the last eight years the Gescheidle family has done a wonderful thing for our community. For this reason I have recently nominated them for a local award. Keep your fingers crossed for this business to be recognized when the winners are announced in a few weeks.

As we all prepare to gather with our families I wish you a holiday table filled with warmth, delicious food, and love!

Christmas in Long Grove

Greeting Santa during his visit to our Historic Downtown on December 12, 2015.

Greeting Santa during his visit to our Historic Downtown on December 12, 2015.

Hurry, Hurry, it’s your last weekend to experience Christmas in Long Grove! And the mood in town this year is extra festive. Thanks to merchants Ryan Messner and John Kopecky, our buildings in the historic downtown are outlined with thousands and thousands of twinkling white lights and the stores are beautiful all decked out in greenery with holiday bows. With our mild weather this year the shopkeepers are reporting strong sales and holiday shoppers happy to have chosen to spend a day in our quaint village.

So if you are in the mood for some seasonal cheer this weekend, here are a few suggestions:

  • Stop by to say “ho, ho, ho” to Santa from 1-4 on Saturday or Sunday
  • Take a FREE horse-drawn carriage ride on Saturday from 1-6
  • Listen to holiday carolers, the “Jingle Singers” Saturday or Sunday from 2-4
  • Knock off those last few wish list items and if you spend $150 you will receive a FREE gift!
  • Participate in our “Smitten with Mittens” collection to help those in need

Details on all of the above activities can be obtained at our Visitor’s Center on the crossroads.

Christmas season can be hectic and hurried. So take a moment to slow down this weekend, come to Long Grove and soak in the atmosphere. Merry Christmas to you and yours!

Meeting Governor Rauner

L to R: Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner, me (looking very petite despite wearing 3 1/2 inch heels!) and my husband Aaron.

Last week Governor Rauner attended our Lake County Municipal League annual dinner at Kemper Lakes in Kildeer, and I finally had my opportunity to meet him in person. First impression–wow he is tall! He is also extremely gracious after what must have been a long and difficult day dealing with State budget issues and unrest over police brutality in Chicago. Governor Rauner thanked me for my service to Long Grove, but I cannot imagine the amount of pressure he must be under serving our State at this particular time. I asked him if he would enjoy sleeping in his own bed tonight (his home is nearby in Lake County) and that elicited a big smile.

Elected officials are under intense scrutiny in our world today, on the national, state, and even local levels. And for good reason, because we want those that represent us to be held to a high standard, and the work that they do for us to be transparent. But all that said, public figures are not to be put on a pedestal. Each and every one of us is flawed in some way, and it is my belief that a large part of the purpose of our human experience is learning to overcome those flaws. And equally importantly, excepting those flaws in others, and helping them to work through life’s lessons with patience and compassion.  Am I making excuses for illegal and immoral behavior or abuse of public trust? No way. But I can say that the vast majority of Trustees, Mayors, county and state officials that I have had the privilege to work with are genuinely trying their hardest to make the lives of their constituents better. It’s just that we can’t always agree on how that is best accomplished!

While I don’t agree with all of Governor Rauner’s policies, I am truly grateful for the gift of his personal time and talents to help the citizens of Illinois. I have faith and trust that he is working diligently to find ways to solve the numerous problems in our state that he has inherited. He rightfully deserves our respect, even if we don’t share the same position on every decision made. Despite disagreements on local issues, I feel the same sense of respect for my Lake County and Long Grove colleagues. With very few exceptions, we are all doing the best that we know how to do.

And even though I know Bruce Rauner is really just another Lake County resident (admittedly, a statuesque one!) who holds public office, it was still pretty cool to shake hands with the Governor!

Keeping the Odds in Our Favor

Another tie was broken this week to determine the fate of video gaming in Long Grove restaurants such as the Village Tavern, pictured above.

Another tie was broken this week to determine the fate of video gaming in Long Grove restaurants such as the Village Tavern, pictured above.

Nothing like a controversial issue to stir up the community! Tuesday night’s Village Board meeting featured a robust two-hour discussion on the future of video gambling in Long Grove, as the Trustees needed to make a decision on permanently allowing it or letting the 18 month trial period expire. Village Hall was packed with passionate supporters on both sides of the issue.

I was not in favor of this idea when it was first brought forth almost two years ago by the merchants. The Plan Commission ruled against allowing it, and residents who had spoken to me were overwhelmingly opposed to the idea of bringing video gambling into Long Grove. In February of 2014 the Board had a split vote on allowing it and I broke the tie to deny it. Subsequently, the Board supported an initiative to allow video gambling on a temporary trial basis, so I kept an open mind to see just how this issue would be handled by the businesses and the community. In the past year and a half, we have seen no ill effects, no increase in crime or complaints to the Lake County Sheriff, no inappropriate advertising. What we have seen is almost $20,000. of extra income into the Village revenues, and the four businesses who have gaming are reporting a material boost to the bottom line. The Village Tavern is profiting $8,000. per month as this form of entertainment has proven to be a good fit. By and large, residents that I have queried over the last couple of months seem ambivalent if not accepting of the practice in our Village. The sentiment that I have heard again and again is some sort of version of “I wouldn’t be upset if you take the machines away, but I also don’t mind if they stay. If it is helping our downtown businesses to survive, then it should be allowed.”

That is why I voted in favor of video gaming remaining this week, when I was called to (once again!) break a tie between a Board of Trustees split on this decision.  My thinking has evolved on this issue, along with many in our community, from the idea of video gaming two years ago, now taking into account the experience of having this form of entertainment available in Long Grove.  Is video gaming the savior of our historic downtown? No, but it is also not the devil leading it into the dark side of depravity. Our “Long Grove” brand is still alive and hanging strong through tough economic times. Anything our government can do to help the local, independent merchants survive the current retail climate is a help, as indicated by the majority of residents on a recent survey who identified “revitalize the downtown” as the most significant issue facing the Village in the next two years. Residents want to see our downtown business district thrive, and are becoming more open to new ideas on how to make this happen.

I have learned something through dealing with this particular issue. Preconceived notions are not always correct. Sometimes it is wise to put aside personal bias in order to be more receptive to the opinions and needs of others. It can lead to a better decision. I still have never wagered a bet on any of the video terminals here in town, and I really don’t plan on doing so in the months ahead. But for those who choose to take a chance on Long Grove’s future, I wish the best of luck for us all.

Office Hours

Signing a liquor license for Finch's Beer with Village Clerk Heidi Locker-Scheer at the Four Seasons in Chicago.

Signing a liquor license for Finch’s Beer with Village Clerk Heidi Locker-Scheer at the Four Seasons in Chicago.

One of the questions that I am often asked is how many hours a week do I spend volunteering as Village President? Is it a full-time job? While the time spent on Village concerns varies widely from day to day, one thing that I can guarantee is that this is a job without regular “office hours.”

Most weekdays I spend a minimum of two hours answering emails and phone calls, oftentimes more. Several days a week I have meetings to attend, many in Long Grove but others further afar in Lake County or downtown Chicago. Quite a few of my meetings are in the evening, including Village Board meetings which typically run until 10 pm or later. Invariably, issues “blow up” on weekends, and I will spend time dealing with something unexpected on a Saturday afternoon or while on vacation. The demands on my time are consistently unpredictable!

More of a surprise to me are the various locales that I find myself working in. Our Long Grove Village Hall is in a restored 1850’s Tavern, and while quaint and charming, it is short on work space. I do not have an office, and the only place for me to work at Village Hall is in the public meeting room, when available. So when I need to meet with someone, I most often go to them. I sometimes joke that our local coffee shop, Beans & Leaves, is my office because I use it so often as a spot to be available to others who want to talk with me one on one. I have also conducted meetings in many of the shops and restaurants in our historic downtown, and really, can you beat the atmosphere of the Village Tavern for a serious discussion with a couple of merchants? Recently, a liquor license needed to be signed ASAP for our newest establishment, Finch’s Beer. Neither I nor our Village Clerk work at Village Hall more than once or twice a week, but I just happened to be seeing Heidi that evening at a charity event in Chicago, so I took the document along and we were both able to sign it. And since our office that evening was the Four Seasons, we were able to enjoy a Finch’s Beer after making it legal to be sold in Long Grove!

Of course, a major amount of my work is done on the computer or over the phone from my home office. One benefit from working at home is that you can work from wherever that home may be at the moment. I am extremely blessed to have a personal “Camp David” where I can retreat for a few days of R & R with my family. And while it is mentally helpful to occasionally get out of Dodge, I do find myself working from my vacation home on a regular basis. The most unusual places I have worked on Village issues include exotic spots like Bora Bora and Anguilla. I used to quip that a tropical vacation for me would not be complete without a call from our Village attorney detailing some new threat of litigation. My husband broke the string recently by taking me to a tiny island in the Caribbean where my cell phone would not work. It was bliss! Probably the strangest experience of working for the Village remotely is when a reporter for the Daily Herald tracked me down at my hotel in Salzburg, Austria for my thoughts on the antics going on in Long Grove during a contentious Trustee election.

I do actually have an answer for that question about how many hours I put in on a weekly basis. For a three month period last fall, I kept track of my time spent volunteering for Long Grove and it averaged out to 30 hours per week. And for the record that does not include time spent blogging!