Six Women Share Honors and Advice As they Depart Elected Positions
(Sherry A. Wells, Dec. 8, 2020)
Oakland County, MI – The Women Officials Network Foundation held a virtual Celebratory Toast on December 4, honoring six members who are leaving their respective positions after serving a total of 124 years in public office.
Facilitating the event was the group’s President, Nancy Philippart, who was first elected to the Troy Board of Education in 2008 and reelected to a third term in November. Presenting the six honorees were Vice-Presidents Deborah Macon, who served on the Bloomfield Hills Schools Board and as a trustee for West Bloomfield Township, along with Geri Rinschler, who held office on the Birmingham Public Schools Board of Education for 20 years to 2016. They asked the honorees to each give words of advice.
Alphabetically, they began with Jacqueline El-Sayed. She served for the last 17 years on the Bloomfield Hills School District Board. El-Sayed was also appointed to the Michigan Truck Safety Commission and served as a commissioner from 2004 – 2011. Her advice is to “Say ‘Yes’ and be willing to serve in your community. And to seek out mentors.”
Eileen Pulker was appointed in 1999 to fill in the remainder of the term for the Clerk of Franklin Village and was subsequently elected and re-elected. WON named her a Diversity Champion. “Maintain your cool and power through difficult situations,” she said. “Often the end result can be better than you had expected.”
Jan Roncelli first ran for Trustee for Bloomfield Township and was elected in 1996. In 2004, she successfully ran for Clerk and has held that position since. In 2012, she was named Michigan Clerk of the Year by the professional association. “The Clerk is the most visible activity of a municipality. Running elections takes caution, care, and integrity,” she said. Most importantly, she advised, is to have a passion for what you choose to do and, she added as she looked over the faces on the Zoom meeting, “to have a great network.”
Kiesha Speech served for eight years, first on the Oak Park School Board and then the Oak Park City Council until 2017, before recently moving back to North Carolina. From Dr. Sheryl Mitchell Theriot she learned about community needs and that leadership and service are connected. “Be willing to push yourself past your perceived limitations,” Speech said. And, echoing Jan Roncelli, “Build your list!” Kiesha was named as one of Oakland County Executive’s Elite 40 Under 40 in 2013.
Shelley Taub, in 1992, ran for and served as an Oakland County Commissioner until 2002. She then ran for State House, serving two terms before running unsuccessfully for Senate. (We can’t win them all!) She was then elected again to her former County Commission seat and served from 2009 through the end of this year. She reminded the members that we must “Serve all of the people…and listen, not merely hear.”
The sixth, but already mentioned as a mentor by other honorees, is Cynthia von Oeyen. She started in 1998 by serving on the Board of the Bloomfield Hills School District and ultimately chosen to be its President. She served on the Oakland County School Board Association from 2000 to 2013, and has earned the Master Platinum Award from the Michigan Association of School Boards. Von Oeyen named Deborah Macon as her first mentor. “All parents have the same hopes and dreams for their children,” she said. She described her service as “the right thing to do for kids,” and quoted Hillary Clinton, saying “We are stronger together.”
The Women Officials Network is a non-profit and non-partisan organization founded in 1997. Its membership includes women from Wayne and Macomb as well as Oakland County and includes not only Republicans and Democrats but Green Party members as well.
WON hosts quarterly breakfasts that feature dynamic speakers and networking. During the pandemic those are being held virtually. It also holds annual WONder Women Awards which honor folks “for their exceptional leadership and assistance to women and girls in reaching their own full leadership potential.”
The next quarterly meeting takes place Jan. 15. For more information visit www.wonfoundation.net