Local leaders optimistic about 2009

In a down economy, civic and community leaders in Rolling Meadows seem to be taking an upbeat approach to the new year. I asked several of them what they'd like to work toward in 2009, and their responses are heartening.

"One thing I'm really hopeful for is that we can get out of this sour economy so people no longer fear for their jobs," says Mayor Ken Nelson.

Once that happens, he looks forward to negotiating deals to develop some areas that really need it, such as the Dominick's site and Woodfield Gardens.

"The developers are there just waiting. I've got my own business," he says, "and I understand how people feel."

Though tough times have touched Rolling Meadows businesses with bankruptcies and layoffs, he's taking an optimistic view.

"There are so many good things if we can get past this," he said.

Victoria Bran, director of Police Neighborhood Resource Center, is looking to spread the word about the center's benefits to the community as a whole. City budget shortfalls have strained its resources lately, but Bran isn't deterred.

"My 2009 New Year's resolution is to get the word out how the center's services have evolved over the years to serve all of the city's residents," she said. The center, located in the East Park Apartment complex, offers police, library and health services to local residents.

Dave Ruff, director of the Rolling Meadows library, aims to do more local history research and writing. With the library marking its 50 anniversary in 2009, the timing couldn't be better.

Ruff also plans to continue to keep a good watch on the budget, use good judgment and be disciplined.

On a more personal level, he vows to "never forget which of my children I am to take to or bring home from basketball, track, soccer, gymnastics or band practice - wait, we're not doing track in 2009 ... I think," he says.

Rolling Meadows Rotary Club President Jim Turi has several goals. In addition to providing grants to several community agencies, the club will give scholarships to at least two high school seniors and sponsor two students in the Rotary Youth Leadership Awards. Also, the agenda is to partner with the city on a Salt Creek Erosion project.

This will all take money, of course, and Turi points to the club's big fundraiser, a St. Patrick's dinner on March 14.

Rolling Meadows High School Principal Charles Johns finds that Jan. 1 isn't the best time for new resolutions. "For me, it seems that the new year starts at the end of August. I even set my personal goals in August."

So it's a time for some reflection on goals already set. He outlined the school's successes this year so far, including being named a model school for a "Response to Intervention" program to help struggling students. He aims to give more attention to students, staff and supporters who have helped with these successes.

"As any decent leader will tell you, you get what you reward and recognize," he said. "So, that is my resolution: to spend more time recognizing and rewarding students, staff and our school community for their great achievements that support academic achievement, long-term student success and school pride."

His personal goals? "I bet I'm like most of America: I need to spend more time in the gym," he says. "I spent too much time in December shoveling and used that as an excuse to skip workouts."

• You can reach Colleen Thomas at (847) 427-4591 or

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