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Village President reflects on service
in Soldiers Grove

It’s not easy to give up serving your community, but sometimes you have no other choice.

So it has been for Soldiers Grove’s Laurel Hestetune, who stepped down from his position as the village president just two weeks ago.

“They have been after me for the last four years to stop,” Hestetune said of his doctors.

Hestetune has served for the last 15 years on the Soldiers Grove Village Board. He has been the president for all but two years.

“Steve (George) got in there,” Hestetune said of the two years he wasn’t the president.

“I convinced him to run and then when he ran, I didn’t turn in my papers,” Hestetune said laughing mischievously.

Hestetune’s time on the board has seen a few significant moments, not least of which was the June 2008 flood that saw the levee break, decimating the park beyond.

“It was a nightmare,” Hestetune recalled. “That in a way was a lot of work, but there was so much cooperation with everyone it was easy.”

The breach in the levee created such force in the waters surging through that it destroyed the parking area below the Lions Shelter, breaking apart the asphalt, washing away soil underneath, and heaving the pieces of asphalt to create broken and surreal landscape. The park across the street was stripped of it’s top layers, exposing the remnants of foundations from the buildings that once comprised the village downtown before it was relocated in the early 1980s.

The levee was lowered during its reconstruction to allow water to flow with less force in future flood events. Hestetune said the redesigned levee was expected to prevent the same sort of damage from reoccurring.

“We didn’t really have to struggle so much financially, FEMA was really cooperative and worked hand-in-hand with us,” Hestetune recalled.

It wasn’t long after that before the village found itself tightening its belt due to a nationwide recession.

“We had to look at the budget, figure what we could do without, ask what we could cut back on,” Hestetune said. “We didn’t want to raise taxes.”

“Getting the fire department back in shape and working,” was identified by Hestetune as an important project and is still ongoing as he leaves office.

Stress built from the situation involving five missing fire department radios, their replacement and the ensuing investigation. The many meetings of both the village board and the fire department created a great deal more stress. The situation ultimately affected the village president’s health and resulted in his resignation as village president. Hestetune remains reluctant to speak about the situation that led to his resignation.

“If you do, you’ll be all worked up,” his wife Darlene admonished. “When he does, that is when he starts having his symptoms again.”

The situation was close to home, with Hestetune’s family members on both sides of the contentious fire department issue that is still being dealt with by the village board.

Any issue in an area this small can create conflict, because anything that happens can involve family, friends, people you have known for many years, according to Hestetune. Nevertheless, the former village president believes that you still have to do your best and act with as much integrity and honesty as possible.

“They told me ‘This time, do it or suffer’,” Hestetune said of his doctors’ continuing advice to leave the board and reduce his stress levels.

“I dreaded quitting,” Hestetune said. “My wife didn’t.”

“No, I had been trying to get you to stop for a long time,” she responded.

“I miss it,” Hestetune said of his role as the village president.

“I just want to thank everybody that was behind me and confident that I could do the job,” Hestetune said. “I really enjoyed working with different people, accepting their criticism and comments, their ideas. I didn’t always agree, but that’s part of the job. I thank them and hope they can cooperate with the new board.”