Former Utica mayor receives MML’s Honorary Life Membership Award

By: Kara Szymanski | Shelby - Utica News | Published January 27, 2021

 Jacqueline Noonan, the mayor of Utica for 28 years, recently received an Honorary Life Membership Award from the Michigan Municipal League, which is the league’s highest individual honor.

Jacqueline Noonan, the mayor of Utica for 28 years, recently received an Honorary Life Membership Award from the Michigan Municipal League, which is the league’s highest individual honor.

Photo provided by the Michigan Municipal League

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UTICA —The Michigan Municipal League announced Jan. 11 that it has given its highest individual honor to a longtime Utica mayor and Michigan Municipal League supporter.

Jacqueline Noonan, Utica’s mayor for 28 years, received the Honorary Life Membership Award from the Michigan Municipal League.

Noonan received the recognition in conjunction with the release of a tribute video and a podcast conversation ab-out her work on behalf of Michigan’s communities. -The video celebration and podcast were done in place of an in-person awards gala that was canceled due to COVID-19-related safety measures.

Noonan retired as mayor in 2016 after serving 14 terms. She was the longest-serving mayor in the city’s history and was the first woman to hold the position when she was first elected mayor in 1987. She also previously served on the Utica City Council from 1981 to 1985.

“Certainly I did not foresee the next 36 years, but I had always worked hard to be a contributing member of the community, and I believe my time since coming to Utica as a newlywed in 1964 bears that out,” Noonan said in an email.

Sterling Heights City Manager Mark Vanderpool, whose community borders Utica, said that he was able to work with Noonan on many projects in their communities over the years.

“Mayor Noonan was an exceptional mayor and is more than deserving of the League’s Honorary Life Membership. Utica experienced numerous transformational changes under her leadership, and I was honored to be able to work with her on multiple efforts involving both of our communities over the years,” he said in a prepared statement.

Noonan first ran for office to modernize the city and was known as the “architect of Utica’s rebirth,” according to the MML press release announcing the honor. She was involved in nearly all of the city’s major projects, including helping to bring a new minor league ballpark to the city’s downtown district, constructing hiking and biking trails, placing hanging flower baskets downtown, widening M-59, reconstructing Van Dyke Avenue, hiring a professional planner, resurfacing nearly every city street, and creating a Downtown Development Authority.

She also worked to computerize city offices, update the criteria to fill vacant jobs, revise the city’s master land use plan and update employee job descriptions.

The MML said that Noonan attended many of the organization’s workshops, statewide conventions and legislative conferences.

“Jacqueline always put her heart into the City. Whether it was for the employees, businesses or residents, she always considered what was best for all. She was also very knowledgeable in many matters from doing her own research and reading everything thoroughly. She also supported many people by giving them the chance to (excel) in jobs, like me,” recently retired City Clerk Beth Ricketts said in an email interview.

“Being Mayor and a schoolteacher at once took a lot of extra time. Mayor Noonan always had time for you, to help you figure things out, and if she had a goal, she was like a bulldog with a bone; (she) would not let go until the project was completed, finding money when there was none, like (the) $1 million for the reconstruction of Van Dyke. No one is more deserving of the honorary award than Jacqueline K. Noonan,” she said.

Noonan’s whole family has been involved in public service. Her husband, Jerry, who died in late 2020, served 42 years on the Utica Fire Department, with 34 of those years as the assistant fire chief. Their children work as teachers, firefighters and in other public roles. Noonan is a retired high school teacher who taught French and social studies.

Noonan said she realized early on that she should become involved with regional and state organizations, such as the MML. She served on the MML Board and as its president for 2013-2014. She also was active with the Michigan Association of Mayors, the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments and the Macomb County Mayors Association.

“Since my four years out of office were greatly occupied with my husband’s health issues, I limited my City involvement to Utica’s 200th Anniversary celebration. With his passing, I hope to involve myself more but cannot say to what extent — most likely with my parish, St. Lawrence and local charities. I will attend MML functions once the pandemic passes when I can. It is an important part of my life, and I look forward to helping wherever and whenever I can,” she said.

Noonan said getting the Honorary Life Membership Award from the League is very meaningful to her.

“It’s hard to describe how much this award means to me. Over the years, I have always said the Michigan Municipal League was the preeminent statewide organization in helping, inspiring and informing local leaders. To this day, it has only increased my admiration and my appreciation for MML, its staff and all its members. Thank you for this incredible honor,” Noonan was quoted as saying in the MML press release announcing the award.

According to the Michigan Municipal League, “The Honorary Life Membership, first awarded in 1932, is the League’s highest individual honor, reserved for the most active and inspiring leaders dedicated to the League and its mission.”

The Michigan Municipal League advocates for its members at the state and federal level and in the courts. It has educational opportunities for local government officials and provides programs and services. For more information, visit mml.org.

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