From Supporting Role to Lead: Sue Jakubiak, MARSP's New President
“What are you going to do next?”
This was the number one question asked of Sue Jakubiak, MARSP’s new president, as she circulated her St. Clair County Community College retirement party in 2011. While talking to one of the college’s board members, she confessed that she had no idea what she was going to do next. She had not even officially left yet!
The board member offered comfort: Don’t worry – with your skill set, you don’t have to look for something to do. It will find you.
“MARSP found me not long after,” Sue recalled.
After her second husband passed away in 2016, college friend and MARSP member, Cindy Rourke, convinced Sue to attend a Blue Water Chapter meeting. Sue had been thinking about finding somewhere to volunteer, and MARSP’s mission caught her attention.
“As a single person, I needed the focus. And what better way to spend your free time than by protecting your livelihood and health care?”
Growing up, public school service was a family affair. With her dad a head custodian and her mom a bus driver, Sue respected and understood the importance of school support staff for daily operations. By her sophomore year, Sue was an office co-op student at Richmond High School. After graduating, she continued working at Richmond Community Schools as a K-12 secretary, board office payroll clerk, accounts payable, and general ledger accountant. Half her career later, she began working as a community college president’s administrative assistant, event planner, and member of the president’s executive leadership team.
Sue knew how to bring people together, and as a new MARSP member, she was eager to apply her skills and experience. Over the next eight years, she would serve as a Pension Seminar presenter for MARSP Retirement Planning Services, Membership chair of her local Blue Water Chapter, a State Membership and Legislative Committees member, and a Legislative Ambassador.
Though she’d spent hours assisting leaders during her career, Sue didn’t quite consider herself a leader. So, it was quite a surprise when former MARSP president Bob Kucera called her in 2019 and offered her the position of MARSP Vice President. Not only Vice President but future President following the end of Steve Gordon’s term in 2023.
“I was stunned. I said, ‘Bob, I am flattered, but I can’t believe you’re asking me. MARSP presidents are retired administrators with several degrees after their name.”
Sue couldn’t relate to that version of leader. After graduating as her high school class valedictorian, she’d attended business classes at Macomb County Community College, followed by a full-time job, marriage, and children. In 1987 at age 36, Sue unexpectedly became a widow with an 8, 9, and 11-year-old to support on a clerical salary.
“After raising three children by myself for 10 years, I guess you could say I had the education of hard knocks,” said Sue.
Bob, head of MARSP presidential nominating committee, told her that the decision was unanimous. She was the perfect person for
“Bob nudged me out of my comfort zone, and I have no regrets,” Sue reflected.
Sue’s focus as MARSP President
On July 1, 2023, Sue assumed her role as MARSP’s President after serving as Vice President and President-elect. Six months in and she’s still shocked by the turn of events.
“As a former support staff person, I never dreamed I would be named president of such an important organization,” she said. “I’m honored that my skills and personality are such that I was considered for the role.”
As president, she is focused on bringing the MARSP community back together post-pandemic and on reaching out to potential members. She is particularly interested in building awareness among retired support staff like her.
“I want to reach out and embrace the whole school family, including clerical, custodial, food service, bus drivers, para pros, etc.,” said Sue. “As MARSP’s visibility among support staff grows, so does our ability to defend their retirement benefits.”
A return on investment
Suffice it to say, Sue no longer wonders what she’ll do next. She’s found camaraderie at MARSP, and countless opportunities to apply her skills and foster growth. The once rigid line that existed between “support” and “lead” has faded, just as it has for so many in the public school arena, and she now sees the qualities of a leader woven into her history. Today, those qualities guide her actions as MARSP President and shape her message to current and future retirees:
“I would encourage everyone to consider a MARSP membership. Consider what we offer in terms of socialization, advocacy, travel, and insurance. MARSP helps protect your livelihood today and in the future. Not just yours, but the active people still working the daily grind. What we lobby for today affects these future retirees. The simple act of paying your dues goes a long way in this effort, but volunteer opportunities are there, too, if you want them. If you get involved, you will get a return on every second you invest.”