Lansing’s Leading Lady: Erin Schor Cultivates Culture, Communication in the Capital City
The great women of history aren’t only found in textbooks. For Lansing first lady Erin Schor, wife of Mayor Andy Schor, one such heroine can be found in her family’s photo albums: her mother, Sue Carey.
“She was a huge inspiration,” Erin said. “She was a teacher for many years and was just always very involved through church work, through other means, really trying to help people, trying to serve, using what resources we had to help the community. I think I have striven to follow the example, to give back to others, because we’ve been so lucky.”
Those are lessons Erin has carried through her personal and professional lives, including her two decades working in mid-Michigan politics and her time as first lady, the latter of which began with her husband’s election to city leadership in 2018.
The role of first lady is “sort of a hybrid” of formal and informal duties and “has its up and downs. We’ve had some amazing opportunities,” including joining a delegation of Michigan dignitaries in 2019 in traveling to Japan for the 50th anniversary of Lansing’s sister city relationship with Otsu, Japan.
“That was exciting and unique,” Erin said.
“It’s also been a very challenging several years. Public officials have been subject to a lot of anger and a lot of threats, and we’ve been no exception,” she said. “That’s been hard on our family, but it’s an exciting world to figure out how I can help the city and how I can help the mayor.”
As first lady, Erin has been able to serve as the founding chair of the city’s Arts and Culture Commission that’s been supporting arts in the city in general and specifically envisioning the city’s needs for a performing arts space.
“Now, that work is moving forward,” she said.
That work is hardly cosmetic. After all, culture is the hot commodity in making a community desirable to live in and stay at.
“More and more, people these days, as they are determining where they want to make their home and where they want to work. They look for a place and find a job there rather than the other way around,” Erin said. “That’s why we see places like Austin (Texas) and Nashville and even Grand Rapids attracting so many young people and retaining those who go to school there. So, that’s been a huge focus for the mayor.
“We want Lansing to grow, but we can’t rely on the same industries we always have. … If we want people to live and work downtown and fill our neighborhoods, what can we do to make the city vibrant? Arts and culture are a big piece of that,” she added.
Overall, “she said she’s just trying to make her corner of the world a better place.
“I am motivated by my faith, and I know how lucky we are as a family,” she said. “We work hard, but there are a lot of people who work hard and never seem to get ahead, so we’ve really tried to set the example for our kids to share what they can and try to make the community a little bit better.”
What can other women learn from Erin’s history? She has some ideas.
“To women out there — particularly young women, but anyone who’s looking to get involved — it’s often said that the world is run by those who show up,” she said. “I think women in particular have a tendency to wait to be asked or to be noticed — and in my experience, it’s not necessary. Just jump in and people will be happy to support you and possibly even put you in charge of things, but don’t wait because the world needs your time and talent.
“The other advice that I would stress is the importance of cultivating relationships with people whose thoughts and whose backgrounds aren’t necessarily the same as yours,” she continued. “I think that we have more in common than we might realize. There is so much we can learn from one another.”
Erin is also aware her generation of women are being watched by the next, including her daughter, Hannah. The Everett High School junior is thinking she’d like to emulate her aunt, who is a doctor. She finds the medical field “incredible.”
“If you look at 100 years ago, we didn’t have half the things we do, and it keeps growing every day,” Hannah said. “That’s something I want to be a part of.”
Sounds like she’s ready to start making her own history.
Getting to know Hannah Schor
Hannah Schor, 16, is a student at Everett High School.
Schor is inspired not only by her mom, Erin, but by her teachers and her boss, Kiki Wilson, who owns Kiki’s Gymnastics in DeWitt. She enjoys arts and crafts, hanging out with a diverse group of friends, and watching TV.
She also knows the success of her future is in her hands.
“Success, you have to get for yourself,” Schor said, noting that she plans to carry the life lessons she’s learned from her parents to her own family someday. “And just being able to see other people succeed, that that makes me really happy.”
Schor aspires to be like her doctor aunt, Shannon Dillon. Schor said her aunt’s work-life balance is motivating.
“She is a pediatrician, so she helps kids. I think just seeing her have a family but also working is inspiring because I know that I can do the same thing someday,” she said.