The end of an era in Leaf River Township


LEAF RIVER – When you think of Leaf River Township, it is hard not to think of Leonard “Tobe” Hagemann.

Hagemann, 89, was born in Leaf River, and has served the township as a trustee or supervisor for 40 years. But this week, the township will find a successor as Hagemann has decided to step down.

“I’ve enjoyed being on it,” Hagemann said during an interview in the township office last week. “Now it’s getting to kind of be work for me.”

If anyone who has served their community deserves a break, it is Hagemann. He has lived in Leaf River his entire life.

“I live just a little over a half mile from the house I was born in, the way the bird flies,” he said.

He has farmed and also ran a small trucking business, hauling grain. On April 5, 1953, he married Donna and they have three daughters who still live in Ogle County.

Most who know him know him by the nickname Tobe. Where did he get it?

“An uncle dropped it on me when I was about 4 years old,” he said with a chuckle. “And somehow it stuck and everybody always calls me that.”

Hagemann first served the township officially in 1973, when he was elected a township trustee. He said a neighbor who served on the board decided not to seek re-election, so Hagemann gave it a try. His first term was from 1973-77.

He left the position because, well, his life was busy.

“It was right at the time when I had quite a bit of things going,” he said. “I was farming and some of this other stuff, and I thought it was maybe more than I wanted to do.”

Eight years later, he was asked if he wanted to run again.

“I decided to run again, and this time I stayed with it,” Hagemann said.

He served eight years as a trustee, and then was elected township supervisor in 1993. He has held that position ever since. The supervisor serves the township much like a mayor serves the city.

“I run the meetings, I pay all the bills and do all that,” Hagemann said.

During his tenure with the township, he said there are a couple of accomplishments that stand out. The first is the current building the township owns. This is where it does business and holds meetings. Hagemann said at first, the township met at a garage in town. Eventually it moved to the Bertolet Memorial Building.

“I kept looking for place,” Hagemann said, and eventually the township purchased the building at 12 Main St. formerly occupied by the Village of Leaf River.

The second was placing a marker to commemorate the spot the township was founded in 1850. That was dedicated in 2007.

“That’s something I pushed pretty hard to get,” Hagemann said.

But now it is time to let someone else take over. He said the amount of paperwork is double what it used to be. And Hagemann is the first to admit he doesn’t exactly have strong computer skills.

“It’s great for the younger people,” he said. “Unfortunately, a lot of the younger people don’t like to do this kind of work anymore.”

Not only have computers led to changes. Leaf River itself has changed.

“Use to be every place down the road was a farm,” Hagemann said. “Now it is just somebody that lives in a house. You can go two miles down the road and there won’t be an active farm.”

As for his time now? Hagemann said he has plenty at home to keep himself occupied. He said he collects old tractors and some machinery and loves to tinker on it and fix things.

“I’ve got enough to keep me busy.”