After eight years as Long Grove village president, Maria Rodriguez will step down following the April election.
Economic development -- including restoration in the historic downtown -- are at the top of her list of accomplishments, and she said she would like to continue working on this in a different capacity. Rodriguez is exploring employment opportunities in the energy industry, saying a smart grid for electricity is critical to attract business to Illinois.
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"I ran on the idea of restoring the downtown because the downtown is the heart of the village," Rodriguez said Friday. "When people think of Long Grove, that's what they think of. It really is worth saving. The people who live here enjoy the small-town feeling."
Angie Underwood, a village trustee, has filed petitions to run for the office of president, so far without any apparent opposition. Wednesday, Dec. 26, is the last day to file for the April election.
Work in downtown Long Grove has included coordinating with Lake County on plans to rebuild Old McHenry Road, the main thoroughfare through the shopping district. This could result in a stoplight at Robert Parker Coffin Road, she said, and it opens the door for other options that have already required a lot of advance work, including bringing Lake Michigan water to the older area of the village and burying utility lines.
Long Grove established its first tax increment financing district and improved the village-owned Archer parking lot and Archer Road, a $2.4 million project, during Rodriguez's time in office. Village officials expect to sell the four sites readied there for new commercial buildings.
"It was a very big deal to invest reserves into that parking lot and unprecedented to start a TIF," said the village president. "They talked about restoring downtown for years and had three different studies but never identified how to pay for it."
While some businesses have closed and shops the downtown was once known for, such as antique stores, are no longer as big a draw, Rodriguez said she expects the area to become even more of a destination for dining and for shoppers seeking unique items.
"We need to ramp up the historic aspect," said Rodriguez. "We don't really showcase that. We have five Civil War graves in our little graveyard. Our historical society is run by volunteers. We have campaign literature from Lincoln, but the museum is not open. Should we have a historic park and a small hotel?"
To enhance the sales tax the Long Grove government is so dependent on, the village also supported development of commercial land at Route 83 and Aptakisic Road for "practical" businesses such as a grocery store, pharmacy, bank, cleaners and drive-through coffee shop.
Among other positive developments Rodriguez points to during her time as village president are the formation and accomplishments of two groups: The Long Grove Business and Community Partners that has worked with the village on updating the downtown, and the advisory council that has recommended how to expand Route 53 while protecting the Lake County environment.