Northfield Township History
Located in northern Cook County, Northfield Township is comprised of the villages of Glenview, Northbrook and Northfield, and represents nearly 78,000 people. Like all good tales, the Township story is filled with well-known local names, ongoing action and a mission.
Northﬁeld Township’s ﬁrst town meeting was April 2, 1850 and took place where most of the important meetings of the day were held - upstairs at the Glen View House, then known as Shepherd’s Tavern.
The early meetings dealt with the relevant issues - roads, and the occasional stray pig. In fact, the ﬁrst ordinance passed by those attending the ﬁrst meeting called for a ﬁne for any person who “shall suffer or permit any hog, goat or pig to run at large”.
More important business items followed. Transportation represented economic and community survival for the early population. Today, the Township Road District, known for its cutting edge policies, continues to maintain the roads and bridges in unincorporated areas. The Township is also responsible for four sewer systems.
The Assessor, Patricia Damisch, has the most well known activity of Northfield Township, and serves as the local liaison between the Cook County Assessor and our citizens. Her duties include helping homeowners in all steps required in filing a complaint or appeal; assisting citizens filing for homeowner and senior exemptions, as well as the Senior Freeze and Tax Deferral programs; processing of building permits, sales transfers, tax bill name/address changes and fielding daily a wide variety of inquires relating to properties.
Additionally, Northfield Township manages a food pantry, and serves as a point of information for residents looking for a type of agency. Despite access to quality programs in our area, residents often are unaware that a service is available, and the Township can offer a referral to a social service provider.
Our Highway Commissioner, Peter Amarantos, is recognized for his dedication in meeting the residents' needs. Under Mr. Amarantos' leadership the Road District provides more effecient and economical services. Working together in a cooperative and professional manner with neighbors, Cook County, the State of Illinois and the surrounding villages, problems are identified, and practical, cost-effective solutions are developed utilizing the resources at hand.
From the first Supervisor, Joseph E. Kennicott in 1850, community leaders have continued to step forward to serve. More recent Supervisors have included: Grace S. Lee, Margaret Parcells, Gregg Goslin and Gus Pipenhagen. In a world where you are "known by the association you keep", Mr. Kennicott's family is memorialized through the Grove, a national landmark. Mrs. Lee went on to become the Executive Director of TOCC, Ms. Parcells later served in the House of Representatives, and Mr. Goslin also served as and Illinois Representative and currently is a Cook County Commissioner.
The leadership pool that is developed through service is not limited to our Supervisors. Recent Trustees have included Kevin Hanrahan, who later served in the Illinois House of Representatives, Elizabeth Coulson, now representing the 57th District in the House, and former Assessor Kathy Parker, now an Illinois Senator for the 29th District.
While the Township Board meetings no longer deal with roaming livestock, it continues to be committed to responding to the needs of the residents of this area by providing compassionate, efficient and accountable government services.
As we begin the recognition of the 150th birthday of Township government in the United States, it is important to reflect on its origins and where we are today. Though Township government is uniquely an American form of government, its origins date back to England. In England a Township was called "Tunscipe", middle English for Township. Designated as the parameter around a settlement used for the defense and service for the common good, it was a local district that was part of a large church parish. Each district contained a town that had its own church. In those times, the church was the institution that "looked after the people's need". Responsibility became the legacy of a Township when the English settlers came to New England. Township government was established in Providence, Rhode Island in 1636, and is the oldest existing unit of government that continues to serve in our continent.
In 1787, the Township became a legally recognized unit of government under the Acts of Congress known as the Northwest Ordinance. It was defined as a territory of land six miles square, there are some Townships smaller in size but none larger than six square miles.
Under the Illinois Constitution of 1848 each county was given the option of establishing a commission form of government, without Townships, or dividing the county into such Townships. The Townships would provide specific services but would function as a unit of government independent of the county. This township-county form was selected by voters in 85 of the 102 Illinois counties. The referendum establishing townships passed in Cook County in 1849.
In April of 1850, Township governments in Cook County held their first Town Meetings and the people elected their first Township Officials. These leaders of the community saw to it that the common services, desired by all and voted on by all, were provided.
Even today, the Annual Town Meeting affords the public the opportunity to be involved in Township Government.
It is no longer necessary to pass ordinances regulating livestock running at large, or to layout roads and bridges. . .the role of Township is still to provide "common services desired by all". The original General Assistance program was called "poor relief" in 1850 and was meant to be the first helping hand for those who needed financial assistance. Today General Assistance means establishing Job Search and Work Programs, referring clients for needed medical care, understanding the complexities of the various departments of the State of Illinois and the federal government that relate to food stamps, unemployment compensation, disabled services, rehabilitation services, emergency assistance, day care, affordable housing, transportation, etc.
Often times, the importance of Township government is obscured by the services of the cities and villages, who provide the more visible services of police and fire. However, with the advent of Federal Revenue Sharing in the 1970's, for the first time Townships were given funding to provide needed services for their residents. Populations were aging in the suburban area, and the "senior" population was looking for services such as recreational programs, transportation, information about health care, and ways to keep informed about changes happening in the world around them. Many programs for them evolved from this including "meals-on-wheels", meal sites, lecture programs, health fairs and many, many others.
The Senior population was just the beginning of the services that evolved from expenditure of Revenue Sharing. There was a growing need to help support day care programs, counseling programs for families and young people, substance abuse programs, transportation, drop-in centers for teens, and a myriad of other services that were not being provided be any other unit of government.
Revenue Sharing came to an end in 1986, the Townships struggled to continue supporting those services that had become so vital to their communities. To this day, Townships in Cook County have continued their support of these ever-expanding services to a growing population.
The Highway Commissioners in Cook County pride themselves in providing the kind of services in the unincorporated areas of the Townships that are the envy of many village residents. They keep the roads and bridges in good repair and accessible in any weather. They are also involved in flood prevention and are ready to cooperate with their villages and the county in case of any kind of emergency.
The Assessors office maintains property record cards on all parcels of land in the township. The assessor is the liaison between the Cook County Assessor's office and Township taxpayers. Information is available to identify parcels of property, ownership and assessment values. Homestead (senior citizen) and Homeowner's Exemptions are available in the assessor's office as well as assistance in filing Real Estate assessment complaints.
In this day of instant communications, Townships have websites, use time on local cable access channels and communicate through timely newsletters and the old fashioned way of person-to-person. Township government still has no equal for the functions it provides, it is still "the government closest to the people" with the ability to listen!