Two veteran township supervisors stepping aside in Lake County

Posted1/2/2017 5:30 AM
  • William E. Peterson

    William E. Peterson

  • Lucy Prouty

    Lucy Prouty

Two longtime township supervisors in Lake County will be exiting their jobs by not seeking re-election next year.

Vernon Township's William E. Peterson and Ela Township's Lucy Prouty are stepping away from the top elected positions. Contested elections will be held April 4 to decide the supervisor replacements in Buffalo Grove-based Vernon Township and Ela Township, headquartered in Lake Zurich.

Township supervisors are the business equivalent of a chief executive officer. Their duties include chairman of the board of trustees, administering general assistance programs for those in need and treasurer of a variety of funds.

Not all of Lake County's veteran township supervisors are ready to depart. For example, Warren Township's Suzanne Simpson has been supervisor in the Gurnee area since 1997 and will seek another four years when she faces Mary Turley in the April election.

William E. Peterson

For Peterson, 44 years of political service is enough.

"I'm now a motor-home owner, and I'd like to have more time to travel," said Peterson, 80, of Long Grove. "I'd like to get out through northern California and see the sequoias and the redwoods."

Peterson certainly has earned some time out of the public eye. The Chicago native and U.S. Army veteran first was elected to public office in 1973, when he ran for a seat on the Vernon Township board. At the time, he was working as a principal at Ravinia School in Highland Park.

Four years later, Peterson was elected township supervisor, a post he's held since then.

He also served in the state House from 1983 to 1993 and in the state Senate from 1993 to 2009.

Vernon Township includes parts of Long Grove, Lincolnshire, Buffalo Grove, Vernon Hills, Mundelein, Riverwoods, Mettawa and Indian Creek. The township is filled with residential subdivisions, industrial parks and shopping centers now. But when Peterson first was elected to township office, it looked very different.

"This area was more like a rural farm area," he recalled. There were a lot of little frame residences ... that have long since been demolished."

One of the township government's biggest responsibilities back then was road maintenance. But helping poor or financially struggling families was a priority, too -- one that continues today.

Under Peterson's watch, Vernon Township launched several programs to help residents in need, including a food pantry and a 50/50 cost sharing effort with American Taxi that helps seniors and people with disabilities get to medical appointments or hospitals.

The township also provides meals for needy families each Thanksgiving and runs an adopt-a-family gift program each Christmas.

"We look like we're a very prosperous area," Peterson said. "But we do have a lot of people who are just getting by. And it's nice when we can help those people."

Peterson called the construction of the Prairie View commuter train station in 1996 one of the highlights of his career. The township led the project and still maintains the station, which is on Metra's North Central line.

Veteran Fremont Township assessor and state Rep. Ed Sullivan Jr. of Mundelein said he was honored to work with Peterson at the local and state levels.

"Bill understood his constituents and how to serve his district," said Sullivan, who also is retiring from political service in 2017. "His 40-plus years in elected office should surprise no one, as he truly was a man of the people."

Lucy Prouty

As she heads toward the end of her time as Ela Township's supervisor, Prouty also will be concluding her tenure on statewide organizations.

Prouty, who has headed Ela since 2005 and plans to spend more time with her husband, has represented Lake County on the Township Supervisors of Illinois board of directors in a two-year term that began in 2015. She also has been part of the Township Officials of Illinois board.

"That's what I'm going to miss the most," said Prouty, 75. "I really enjoyed working with those (statewide) people."

Warren Township Supervisor Suzanne Simpson complimented Prouty's work on a statewide level. She said it's important to keep on top of what's happening in Springfield.

"She would always make sure (township) supervisors would know about legislation that could impact us," Simpson said.

Ela Township serves about 40,000 residents. It includes all or part of Barrington, Deer Park, Hawthorn Woods, Kildeer, Lake Zurich, Long Grove and North Barrington, along with sections of unincorporated Lake County near Palatine and Mundelein. Prouty has had several accomplishments since becoming Ela's supervisor nearly 12 years ago.

One achievement was the opening of the township's headquarters building on Route 22 in Lake Zurich in 2009. Completed on time and for less than a budgeted $2.8 million, the handsome structure was built to house offices for the supervisor, assessor, clerk and social worker.

Most recently, she pushed for a land purchase to build more athletic fields to help Lake Zurich-area youth sports. Ela Township spent $490,000 for 10 acres just south of Lake Zurich in unincorporated Lake County.

Nestled in a tranquil, residential setting close to Lake Zurich Unit District 95's Isaac Fox Elementary School and Middle School South, the land at 21096 N. Deerpath Road is expected to accommodate lacrosse and soccer.

"They need the playing fields," Prouty said.

Prouty, who was a professional hair stylist, launched her Ela Township political career as a trustee in 1990. She also had a stint as clerk before becoming supervisor.

While retiring from the supervisor post, she hopes to become a part-time clerk at Ela. She'll go up against Ellen Osiadac for the clerk job in April.

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