Manifolds, Manolos & Manure...by Bona Heinsohn
Five short years ago, I sat before a county committee to plead my case. In 15 short minutes, I explained why I wanted to serve as a trustee for my local conservation district. I didn’t want to become a trustee for the glamour or the pay (it’s a volunteer position after all) but because one of my earliest memories is of my mom chaperoning a school field trip to the Festival of the Sugar Maples, a site famous for its maple trees and delicious maple syrup. I want my children to have those memories-of their grandma chaperoning school field trips-and the opportunity to explore the trails, fens, groves, savannahs, and bogs. I want them to embrace open space and treasure the sacrifices that past generations have made to ensure that public open space is preserved into perpetuity.
Over the past five years, I’ve had the opportunity to work with a highly skilled, professional, and innovative staff. From the individuals who maintain the sites to the ecologists and naturalists who preserve and improve the land to the officers who ensure everyone’s safety and to the leadership staff who have kept me informed, up-to-date, and educated it has been an honor to work along side of them. When I joined the board of trustees, I made a commitment to do what was best for the entire district.
At the end of May, with a heavy heart I stepped down from the conservation district board of trustees five weeks prior to the end of my five-year term. Later that day, surrounded by family, I took the oath of office for alderman for a far northwest suburban town.
Several times in the past month, my husband and I have privately questioned “what the heck I got myself into.” However, we shared the same thoughts when I was appointed to the conservation district board of trustees.
In the past month, I’ve shelved my knowledge of land preservation methods and the steps the staff and board of trustees took to reduce the conservation district’s budget by over a million dollars and have instead been immersed in noise ordinances, sidewalk plans, sewerage treatment methods, and public works equipment. Glamourous, right? Since day one, I’ve caught myself comparing the differences between the two units of government and questioning my decision to transition to municipal government.
What isn’t different is the commitment and time I’m willing to put forth. Since joining Cook County Farm Bureau® nine years ago, I’ve continued to encourage members to become more aware of their local governments and to become involved. It’s incredibly easy to critique how government operates but without individuals willing to dedicate time, talent, and their broad shoulders, government can’t function. Additionally, government can’t function effectively without citizen input.
Not everyone is interested in serving as alderman or trustee, but everyone is able to become aware of and involved in local government.