From Lakewood Village President Erin Smith:
From the President
I am now less two months from completing my second and last term as Village President and I want to thank you again for the privilege of serving.
Lakewood is my home town, the place where I grew up, the place my husband Mike and I raised our 4 children and the place where the majority of my extended family still resides.
I have always considered it to be a great privilege to live in Lakewood, surrounded by so much beauty and so many kind and generous neighbors.
I have been fortunate to serve for 4 years as Village Trustee and then 8 years as Village President with wonderful Board Members and an outstanding Village Staff. Additionally,
I have served as an Officer in the McHenry County Council of Governments (MCCG) and on the Executive Board of the Chicago Metropolitan Mayors Caucus.
In these extended roles, I have learned so much from other experienced mayors that has helped our community.
I want to express my appreciation to all my colleagues.
In the 14 years that spanned my Village service, there have been many accomplishments that were directed by the Village Board, but truly accomplished by our amazing Village Staff, including:
- Reduced our tax rate almost every year and now have the lowest municipal tax rate in McHenry County;
- Strengthened our financial position earning a AAA bond rating, the highest possible bond rating and a designation reached by only 2.6% of Illinois municipalities;
- Survived the 2008 economic recession better than other communities, with the Chicago Tribune reporting in the years following that Lakewood property values outperformed other cities.
- Hired several new department directors, including our previous Chief of Police Larry Howell, Redtail Golf Club Manager Chris Neuhart and our current Chief of Police Leigh Rawson;
- Identified the need for a succession plan for Village Manager and hired Shannon Andrews who is now acting as our Interim Village Manager;
- Negotiated a long-term fire service agreement with the City of Crystal Lake that significantly reduced the cost of fire service;
- Brought Lou Malnati’s to the community and further developed the Lakewood Commons commercial center to diversify our tax base;
- Established an ordinance to ensure Retail Golf Course remains a golf course or open space in the future;
Developed an award-winning recycling program and the strictest storm water ordinance in McHenry County;
- Twice reaffirmed Lakewood as a community that prohibits gambling to preserve our property values; this makes Lakewood the only community in McHenry County that prohibits video gaming;
- Annexed over 600 acres of property including the intersection of Routes 47 and 176 before our boundary agreement with surrounding communities expired, adding revenue from 4 successful businesses and significant residential development;
- Established a Tax Increment Financing (TIF) District to attract commercial development at Routes 47 and 176;
Made important investments in infrastructure including:
- A new state-of-the-art wastewater treatment facility;
- The transition of east side wastewater treatment from Crystal Lake to Lakewood;
- Bike lanes on Lake, Lakewood and Huntley Roads;
- Phase 1 engineering for utilities at Routes 47 and 176; and
- Phase 1 engineering for intersection improvements at Routes 47 and 176.
State of our Community
As I reported in the annual Chamber of Commerce Luncheon in February, the state of our community is very strong. We are financially stable with the lowest municipal tax rate, healthy reserves to survive unexpected events including revenue shortfalls from the state, and a AAA bond rating that allows us to borrow money at the lowest rates when necessary.
Even more exciting is the future outlook for Lakewood, provided that we build upon our strong foundation.
Although our current financial state is strong, our costs will continue to escalate and the only way to maintain existing services without tax increases will be to diversify our tax base through commercial development.
The intersection at Routes 47 and 176 provides the best opportunity for commercial development without impacting the property values of our homes.
Any development at this intersection will meet with protest from surrounding communities who prefer that it remain open space, but if future Boards are truly looking out for the best interests of Lakewood residents, leaders will need to have the courage to move forward. In terms of competing for commercial development, we are at a competitive disadvantage in relation to the larger cities that surround us if we do not use every economic development tool available, including the TIF district we established to compete with the TIF districts that exist in every other community.
Supporting the Transition to New Board Members
I care deeply about future of Lakewood as do other outgoing Board Members and we want to ensure that there is an effective transition to the next Board of Trustees that will be comprised of as many as 5 new Board Members. To this end, we have scheduled two things to support this transition at our second Board Meeting on April 25:
An informal reception to welcome new Trustees and thank outgoing Board Members in advance of the Board Meeting. The reception will begin at 6:00 pm, followed by our 7:00 Board Meeting.
A discussion item on the agenda to provide historical context, share key learnings and anticipate the big decisions the next Board will face. We will include newly elected Trustees in this discussion.
I would like to encourage all residents to consider attending the April 25th Board Meeting at Redtail Golf Club to hear what I believe will be a very positive discussion about the future of our community.
In closing, I want to again thank you for placing your trust in me and allowing me to serve as both Trustee and Village President. It has been a lifetime privilege. I also want to remind all of you to vote in the April 4th election, which is a very important election for our great city.
Wishing you the very best in life,