Sugar Grove group seeks to inform, organize community
by Keith Beebe
SUGAR GROVE—The Sugar Grove Public Library’s ongoing saga this past summer brought out anger, resentment and frustration from many residents, but it also brought to light how important it is to inform and organize the community about everything that goes on in the village.
The recently formed Citizens for a Better Sugar Grove group will seek to do just that.
“Our mission is to help inform residents of local issues and promote democracy at the local level by encouraging residents to become informed and active within the community,” founder Ken Wiesner said. “It was originally created out of the need for community organization with the recent issues at the Sugar Grove Public Library, but our intent is to broaden the scope and become a central hub for all things Sugar Grove. We believe that, as our community continues to grow, it is the responsibility of every resident to help shape the future of our village.”
Four members of the Library Board—President Joan Roth, Vice President Art Morrical, and trustees Bill Bergman and Julie Wilson—voted in favor of the termination of long-time Library Director Beverly Holmes Hughes on July 14. Since that date, the public comment section of every board meeting has been extensive, with countless residents requesting that the four board members to resign.
Wiesner is a former member of the Sugar Grove Library Friends—a group that dissolved in early August to protest Hughes’ termination—and the creator of the group’s website, www.citizensforsugargrove.org, which features breaking news, a listing of upcoming community events and action alerts.
Wiesner and the Citizens for a Better Sugar Grove group notified several village residents after learning that Linda J. (L.J.) Gleysteen, a former West Aurora School District employee who was Roth’s choice to fill the library’s FOIA officer position, had pleaded guilty to misdemeanor battery after a February incident in which the then-Jefferson Middle School teacher squirted a seventh-grade student in the eyes with a solution used to clean whiteboards.
The Library Board at its meeting on Aug. 25 voted 4-1 to terminate its relationship with Gleysteen.
“The main focus over the past few months has been the issues surrounding the Sugar Grove Public Library. Our main objective has been to inform residents of the issues, present the facts, and encourage them to attend meetings and voice their opinions,” Wiesner said.
The Citizens for a Better Sugar Grove consists of Wiesner, former Sugar Grove Library Friends President Pat Graceffa, past Library Board President Doug Hartman, and residents Mari Johnson and Louise Coffman. The group uses social media and e-mail broadcasts to get its message out to the community, but will also use more traditional forms of advocacy: sending letters to newspapers, distributing mass flyers, etc. Currently, the Citizens for a Better Sugar Grove group has 435 people on its mailing list.
Wiesner encourages residents to visit the group’s website, where they can sign up for action alert e-mails, links to blogs and local newspaper coverage of Sugar Grove issues.
“It is clear that our efforts have paid off, as we have seen new people in attendance at recent Library Board meetings ask questions and voice their concerns,” he said. “I am proud of my neighbors who have stepped up to be informed active residents, and hope that they will continue to do so, especially in the next election cycle.”