TIM SKUBICK: First Lady avoids the spotlight

Tim Skubick

Sue Snyder shies away from the media at all costs and is content taking care of others

(Note: Now online, see WKAR-HD/23’s Evening with the Governor 2012 in advance of its January 6 broadcast. Michigan Governor Rick Snyder and First Lady Sue Snyder reflect on their new life in the fast lane, after an historic first year in office. The couple sat down with Senior Capitol Correspondent Tim Skubick on December 19 for an exclusive, in-depth interview, exploring the highs and lows of running the state while simultaneously trying to keep life “normal” for their three children. Watch.)

If the first lady of Michigan walked into the room would you recognize Sue Snyder? Of course you wouldn’t, and she’d be happy you didn’t.

Lots of folks ask, “who is the real Rick Snyder?” But the lack of insight into his bride is monumental, because she avoids the spotlight at all cost and is not a made-for-TV first lady.

Turns out she is more content being First Mom to their three children.

In her first broadcast sit-down interview along with her husband the other day, Mrs. Snyder confesses how her life has changed now that hubby is running the state. While he does that, she is the glue that holds the family together.

“That’s the way people talk about me,” she reveals. “I’m always taking care of everyone; doing things for everyone else. I think I learned that with my mom.”

It was a lesson that was foisted upon the young and unsuspecting Sue Kerr of Dearborn at the tender age of seven. Her mom was sick, first with MS, then breast and bone cancer, and by age 28 her mom was gone.

On top of that, her dad worked long hours, and so care-giving became her calling card. And how ironic that she would marry a guy who was equally driven to work long hours.

“I am highly driven,” asserts the governor during the one-hour broadcast, and she says part of her job is to get him to slow down, especially when he is sick, which he was twice this past year.

“He may complain like all guys do about being sick” – and he and she both start to laugh – “but he still goes on. He just continues at the same pace” while she tries to rein him in for his own good and hers.

Her great sense of humor threads its way through the exchange, with this gem never uttered from the lips of a previous first lady. When asked how she handled his illnesses, she blurted out, “Well you know that men are big babies.”

Her laughing spouse prefers the term “high maintenance,” but either way it was a classic line and so Sue Snyder.

But while she takes good care of the family, she has zero desire to play political adviser a la former First Gentleman Dan Mulhern, who was always at the ready to comment on and defend spouse Gov. Jennifer Granholm.

“Oh, Lord, no,” Mrs. Snyder blurted out when asked about being the gov’s sounding board. “That is not my place.”

Interestingly, the very apolitical first lady was the one who got him into this job in the first place. He was coming home griping about the mess at the state Capitol, so at dinner one night she finally confronted the elephant in the room.

“I said if you know all those things, why don’t you run for governor?”

He did.

So are there days when she wishes they had gone to a movie instead? Sometimes, but she and the kids are clearly on board with his mission to reinvent the state – and when he gave his first State of the State Address last January, there she was in the front row.

“I can’t believe we’re here,” she said, recalling the warm memory. “I was just so proud. I say that every day to him, every day how proud I am of him.”

You can see why he loves her, and she him.

Tim Skubick is Michigan’s Senior Capitol correspondent and has anchored the weekly public TV series Off the Record since 1972. He also covers the Capitol and politics for WLNS-TV6 in Lansing.

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Posted by Tim Skubick

Tim Skubick is Michigan’s Senior Capitol correspondent and has anchored the weekly public TV series Off the Record since 1972. He also covers the Capitol and politics for WLNS-TV6 in Lansing.

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