Penny Carnival

Girl Scouts and Historical Society volunteers prepare to run the games for the younger kids at the Penny Carnival.

Girl Scouts and Historical Society volunteers prepare to run the games for the younger kids at the Penny Carnival.

As part of the Vintage Days festivities last weekend, the Long Grove Historical Society hosted a Penny Carnival on the grounds of their restored 1860’s farmhouse. This was not a fundraiser, but rather an event to connect with the community in a family friendly way and participate with the downtown merchants in a lower-key, local festival. It was a huge success and a perfect result of residents coming together to make something special happen.

First off, you could not have asked for a more beautiful summer day–cool, clear, and comfortable. The girl scouts and Historical Society volunteers were ready and waiting, after spending the previous weeks concocting games to entertain our local families. For example, my household was home to the creation and construction of both the “More Cowbell, Baby” bag toss, and the “NASA Frog Launcher” game. Other vintage-inspired games included the penny toss, bottle rings, duck pond, and tin can knock-over. The cost to play was one penny, and the kids received tickets which could be redeemed at the end for prizes such as penny-candy, trinkets, and small stuffed animals.

As this was a first-time event, nobody knew just how many families to expect, if any. We were pleasantly overwhelmed with nearly 150 families spending their Sunday afternoon having old-fashioned fun on the farmhouse lawn. I was supposed to conduct tours of the museum, but instead was assigned to pitch in running a game and I served a constant line of happy children for two hours straight! I don’t know whether to blame Mike Dvorak, our “carnival barker” or John Kopecky, our “wagon driver” for bringing in the crowds, but at one point I looked up to a line of 30 strollers parked all in a row and knew our expectations had been exceeded. In a wonderful way!

When I look back at my years as Village President, there are some days and experiences that will be remembered as pure joy.

I had a blast helping families and kids with the bean bag toss game!

I had a blast helping families and kids with the bean bag toss game!

“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?

Vintage Days

Our first ever Vintage Days is being held this weekend in downtown Long Grove.

Our inaugural Vintage Days celebration is being held this weekend in downtown Long Grove.

A perfect Sunday afternoon can be had today in Long Grove, because Vintage Days are in full swing! Our Village already offers several vintage and vintage-inspired stores year-round: Scout & Forge, 2 Fancie Gals, Olivia’s, Epilogue, the list goes on…But this weekend we are joined by over 25 vendors, live music, entertainment, children’s activities, free haywagon rides, and more! The fun is kicking off now and goes until 6 pm tonight, with an Arts & Music Council sponsored concert at 4 pm on Towner Green by bluegrass band Special Consensus. The Historical Society is sponsoring a kid friendly penny carnival on the grounds of their 1860’s restored farmhouse, located in the back of Stempel parking lot. No admission for any of these outdoor activities, so stop by for some old-fashioned, free family fun!

Yesterday I spent several hours checking out the scene, and the vibe was terrific. Despite a few brief cloudbursts, lots of happy families and bargain hunters were crossing under our covered bridge to check out the action at the Long Grove Community Church’s ice cream social. The bridge is closed to vehicles for this lower-key fest, so if you are ever looking for that perfect photo opp, today’s the day! The merchants that I spoke with were extremely pleased with all the shoppers in town who were not only happy to be here, but in the mood to make purchases! Pictured below are a couple of the pop-up vendors that I got the chance to meet:

Erin Conley, owner of Novel Nellie, which features vintage and handmade clothing. I purchased one of Erin's skirts and am wearing it to the festivities today! One more great thing about Erin--she grew up right here in Long Grove!

Erin Conley, owner of Novel Nellie, which features vintage and handmade clothing. I purchased one of Erin’s skirts and am wearing it to the festivities today. One more great thing about Erin–she grew up right here in Long Grove!

Ruthie Sudsalot was a delight, and her "Jackass Charm" soaps smell fantastic and are a hoot! With the tag line, "Clean Bodies, Soiled Minds," they are a perfect gift for that special someone.

Ruthie Sudsalot is a delight, and her “Jackass Charm” soaps smell fantastic and are a hoot! With the tag line, “Clean Bodies, Soiled Minds,” they are a perfect gift for that special someone.

Vintage Days is such a great fit for Long Grove, and the merchants, residents, and visitors I talked to yesterday really seemed to agree. It was heartwarming to experience so many elements of our town coming together and embracing a community spirited event, harkening back to simpler times. I hope this is the start of a new tradition!

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!

Music on Towner Green

Enjoying an Arts & Music Council concert on Towner Green with one of the founders and guiding forces of the group, Tobin Fraley.

Enjoying an Arts & Music Council concert on Towner Green with one of the founders and guiding forces of the group, Tobin Fraley.

A tradition that I love in Long Grove is our free concerts on summer Sunday afternoons, planned and supported by the Arts & Music Council. The six-concert series is halfway through the 2016 season, but there are still three more opportunities to bask in the summer warmth on Towner Green while enjoying incredible music. This Sunday, August 7th features gypsy-jazz music by Alfonso Ponticelli & Swing Gitan, followed by bluegrass band Special Consensus on August 21st and wrapping up the season with Sons of the Never Wrong on August 28th. Bring your family and friends, lawn chair or blanket, and favorite beverage or even dinner to savor along with the beautiful music. The concerts start at 4:00 and did I mention that they are free?

For the past 11 years our volunteer Long Grove Arts & Music Council members have worked hard to provide this high-quality entertainment for our community, and I for one am grateful. I have so many pleasant memories of concerts in the park over the years and this coming weekend will be one more to remember. To read more about this group and the history of the concerts see my blog post Summer Concert Series Kickoff. 

Arts and Music Council board members Georgia Cawley (left) and Rachel Perkal accept donations at a recent concert.

Arts and Music Council board members Georgia Cawley (left) and Rachel Perkal accept donations at a recent concert.

Ask The Mayor

Responding to a resident question at a recent meeting in Village Hall.

Responding to a resident question at a recent meeting in Village Hall.

One of the things that I do on a regular basis as Village President is respond to questions from our residents. Hardly a day goes by when I am not interacting either by email, phone, traditional letter, or in person with someone who has a question, concern, complaint, compliment, or problem that they would like for me to solve. By and large, I enjoy working with the public and this desire to be of service was the main motivation for me to run for office. Of course, we all know there are individuals in every community who can be difficult and think nothing of treating elected officials with disdain. But the vast majority of residents that I hear from simply seek to understand, and it is satisfying to know that I can usually help. Below is an example of a recent inquiry I received, about the lack of sidewalks in Long Grove, and my response:

President Underwood,

I have lived in Long Grove my entire life, and I have not yet involved myself in the Village’s proceedings. Recently, though, I began to wonder why Long Grove does not have any public sidewalks or pathways. When I asked around, no one seemed to have a sufficient answer. Lincolnshire and Buffalo Grove, and many other surrounding towns, have sidewalks. Has there ever been talk of building sidewalks or pathways along the roads, or at least along the major roads, of Long Grove? I would be able to walk or bike to local stores if these were available, but as the roads are now, it is simply too dangerous to leave my driveway without driving. I believe our village would be much safer and healthier if we were provided with viable sidewalks along our roads.

I’m sure I don’t have to convince you of the benefits of public sidewalks. Implementing the sidewalks would probably entail massive construction operations at a large cost. What is the main factor restricting Long Grove from building sidewalks?

If possible I would love to be involved with any progress in this area.

Thank you for your time!”

My response:

“Dear (name withheld for privacy),

I am a big fan of the many walking trails in and around Long Grove, and I would love to see more sidewalks for connectivity. The reason you don’t find many public sidewalks is due to our minimal form of government set forth in 1956 when the village government was established. Long Grove provides only minimal services to the residents (no large scale water & sewer, police protection through the county sheriff, majority of roads are private or state & county owned, etc…) and in return for this we pay no Long Grove property tax. Since the village does not levy any property tax, our income is very limited and consists of mostly sales tax income, building permit fees, and small miscellaneous revenues from things like fines, vehicle stickers, and video gaming. We do receive some income through the state of Illinois such as motor fuel tax and LDGF funds, but these are very precarious given the state’s current financial woes. You are correct in your thoughts about the large costs of building sidewalks. At this stage, it presents a real challenge to a village with a very limited income. Your examples of Buffalo Grove and Lincolnshire both charge a local tax, and this allows them to have a larger municipal budget for infrastructure such as sidewalks. The village tried putting forward a referendum two years ago asking for a small tax earmarked to pay for maintenance for our public roads, and it was defeated by 80 percent of those who voted.

All that said, we do have many public walking paths that have been required in all new developments starting in the late 1980’s. The goal is to one day get all these neighborhood paths connected, and we have a village pathways committee that meets quarterly and helps to advance this. We have had engineering done on a sidewalk to run from Heron’s Creek forest preserve all the way to downtown Long Grove on the west side of Old McHenry Road. Fifteen years ago the cost of this was well over a million dollars, and we did get some partial funding awarded from the state through a grant that the village submitted. This grant money has since been withdrawn due to the efforts by the state of Illinois to cut costs. The village has been supportive of the state’s efforts to complete the widening and improvement of Route 22, and a sidewalk along the south side from Rt 83 to Old McHenry Road is in the plans. The village asked for this and will be committing 20 percent of the funds for this pathway. Because of financial reasons with the state, this project keeps getting pushed further into the future, last I heard we are looking at somewhere beyond 2020 for completion. Aptakisic Road is being widened by the county, and sidewalks have been included on both sides in the plan as requested by Long Grove. So the village is trying to get these improvements made when we can, as county and state roads through our village are widened.

One thing you could do to get involved is to attend a village board meeting, and let your thoughts be known during public comment. Every year the board sets an annual budget, and if enough residents speak up more money could be allocated to pathways. You could also join the pathways committee–we are always looking for additional community volunteers. I first joined this committee fifteen years ago and look at where I ended up! Seriously though, let me know if you are interested, and I promise no one will coerce you into running for Village President.

If you want to know more please give me a call and I will be happy to answer your questions. Thanks for reaching out to me and for your concern in making our community an even better place to live.


Village President Underwood”