The Learning Never Stops
I so wanted to be at Village Hall painting with the team of volunteers who worked very hard to make our Village Hall look so much better. I saw the Facebook posts about it and I thank everyone who was able to help out on Saturday morning. However, I couldn't be there as I was in the deep windowless rooms of the Chicago Hilton attending the Illinois Municipal League Annual Conference. Founded in 1913, the IML is an organization dedicated to uniting local governments to form a strong voice. They take on the education and advocacy of elected officials and administrations across the state.
The conference began on Thursday and had sessions until about lunch on Saturday. I chose not to attend the luncheon or the banquet on Saturday as I needed to get home; but I did attend 8 breakout sessions, the opening session, a roundtable for council members and a COVID-19 Plenary (I'll be honest that I had no idea what a 'plenary' was -- but apparently it's a fancy word for "a meeting in a conference for everyone"). As this was my first experience at the IML Annual Conference, I admit that there was a learning curve to choosing the breakout sessions, but overall, I learned so much and thought it was well worth my 2 vacation days from work, my personal expenses to attend, and the modest $165 that the village paid (the village covered a single day's attendance for me, just like they did for our Village Manager, Village Clerk, and our Treasurer.) I believe that I was the only Lakewood official who attended the whole conference.
My original goal for attending was to learn as much as I could. I saw sessions that covered Finance 101 and Budgeting in Uncertain Times. There were sessions on Social Media Policy, Ethics, Sustainability, and even on development and growth. And yes, I learned something from each session I attended -- though admittedly from one it was not to attend that session again. Some were truly eye opening and exciting opportunities that I'm looking forward to sharing with the Village Manager and the board. And some of the things I learned were comforting -- either because they were things that our village was ahead of the curve on or that we weren't alone in some of the challenges we face.
I met municipalities who are struggling with all sorts of challenges and getting an opportunity to sit in a room and listen to one person say, "Hey, do you deal with this? and how have you addressed it?" was true community building. I listened to woes of grandstanding aldermen or mayors; officials who are uncontrolled in their spending; and even one board who had to hire their own Attorney because the one appointed by the Mayor was not representing the village as much as the mayor. I guess what I'm saying is that there are real issues out there -- and I'm thankful for our community and the faith our residents have put into us to bring peaceful, cooperative leadership to this village.
This doesn't mean everything is perfect -- there's much work to be done. But the good news is that the work is being done. Everything from painting a Village Hall to developing a comprehensive roads program so that we can get help identifying the best way to repair and maintain our 36 miles of roads.
The keynote speaker was Joe Theismann. He was really inspirational and encouraging. He shared that he once asked a coach what they look for in a champion (not a player -- because he always reached to be the best). The response was "I'm looking for someone from the Able Family." Who are they? They are:
Available - Are they ready to serve?
Dependable - Can you count on them when asked?
Accountable - How do they handle it when things go wrong?
I wasn't able to help paint Village Hall -- but I hope that where I was and what I was learning will benefit our community just as much. Thank you to the volunteers who were available on Saturday morning to make our community look a little bit better.