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Communications and Marketing

Swyers, class lead community planning session

The media covered Associate Professor of Anthropology Holly Swyers and her students who led Lake Forest residents in a planning session for the City of Lake Forest Strategic Plan on February 7.

Read the story, which appeared in the Daily North Shore:

LF Talks About Strategic Plan

By Steve Sadin • Daily North Shore • February 8, 2017

Multiple generations of Lake Foresters ranging from those with no memory of the Great Recession to some who remember the end of World War II got together for a discussion about the future of their community.

The city held its initial planning session to begin updating its strategic plan February 7 in the cafeteria of Trustmark in Lake Forest. People with different perspectives talked to each other about what was important to them in the community.

A crowd of more than 150 attended a planning session for the City of Lake Forest Strategic Plan.

“This is our first step,” said City Manager Robert Kiely [a ’79 alumnus of the College] “It is a deliberative conversation of our hopes for our community. It should be helpful and spirited. There are differences (between us) but there are a lot of similarities. My son and daughter-in-law have moved back here. They love this community but they think a lot differently.”

After a presentation by Lake Forest College anthropology professor Holly Swyers helping the crowd of more than 150 people understand what shaped the generations in the room, they talked to each other at tables of 10. Each table reported its highlights before there was a general discussion.

Most of those reporting from the breakout groups said education, safety, open space, tradition, a sense of community, fiscal responsibility, family, togetherness and a welcoming community were important traits.

There were also concerns such as a stock of affordable housing to allow young people to return and raise their families in town, financial concerns facing the city like police and fire pensions and dispelling stereotypes outsiders have of the community.

Before the crowd broke into groups, Swyers explained her view of what constitutes generations. She asked for a show of hands of everyone who remembered the Great Recession. Nearly all went up.

Swyers then narrowed the upright arms by asking who remembered 9/11, the fall of the Berlin Wall, Watergate, the John F. Kennedy assignation, the McCarthy hearings and the end of World War II. Hands kept going down until few were up.

“Names like millennials were made up by marketing people who want to sell you stuff,” said Swyers. “Your generation is defined in terms of times of your life and what you saw. What was important when you came of age? I remember the fall of the Berlin Wall. I can easily insert terrorist for communist.”

Before the group discussions began, Swyers gave some parameters. Each table had a moderator who was one of her anthropology students from the college. She said people first needed a sense of safety in their community and then economic well being. Though important to people, she said those were generally present in Lake Forest.

Once people are personally and financially secure, they are looking for a sense of family and social recognition, Swyers said.

Tom Swarthout, a former alderman, said it was time to stop talking and start acting to bring affordable housing to Lake Forest. He said the demolition of Barat College was a lost opportunity and that tearing down some older homes is a current opportunity.

Alderman Tim Newman said he recognized issues presented by some of the financial uncertainty surrounding the State of Illinois and pension obligations. He said he was optimistic and invited public participation.

“We’ll get through this and we want your support,” said Newman. “Reach out and let us know how you feel.”

Some college students said they did not always feel welcome in the community while others said they did. Jacobi McClellan, a fraternity president at the college, made an offer to the city’s residents.

“If you have a volunteer opportunity let us know,” said McClellan. “We have a 15-hour community service requirement. Here’s my email address.”

Kiely said Swyers and her students will prepare a report of the evening in the next two weeks. Then a group of 75 to 100 community leaders will review the information. He said he hopes there will be a draft of the plan in late March and the City Council will adopt it in April.