Officials mourn death of former teacher, county board chair

By: Nick Mordowanec | Fraser - Clinton Township Chronicle | Published October 10, 2017

 Nancy White

Nancy White

FRASER/CLINTON TOWNSHIP — When you talk to individuals who knew and worked with Nancy White, all say the same thing: She cared about the people around her, and she was determined to make Macomb County a better place for everyone.

According to her obituary, White died on Sept. 23 at age 79. She was surrounded by family and friends in the Washington, D.C., area.

A graduate of Morenci High School, she received her bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University and her master’s degree in counseling and guidance from Wayne State University.

She married her late husband, Daryl, in 1962. White taught and volunteered in Fraser Public Schools from 1962 to 1985, and she also worked for MEA-Local 1 representing and advocating for local educators.

The longtime teacher also made her mark in county government.

In 1992, she was elected by constituents in Fraser and Clinton Township to serve on the Macomb County Board of Commissioners. In 2003, she was elected by board members to serve a two-year term as chair, and she was re-elected to the same position in 2005. Thus, she became the first woman elected to two consecutive two-year terms in that capacity.

She is recognized for creating a Strategic Visioning Task Force aimed at assessing the county’s image and future needs. That led to the county hiring its first public affairs director and further engaging in marketing and public relations campaigns.

Promoting bipartisan cooperation in relation to a progressive agenda was a focal point during her tenure, with initiatives including Macomb Together for Hurricane Relief, Macomb Together Helping at Home, Focus Macomb and the Call to Care Initiative.

In 2005, the March of Dimes Michigan Chapter named her its Woman of the Year.

County Commissioner Andrey Duzyj, D-District 1, said he was deeply saddened to learn of her passing. He became a commissioner in 2006, and he recalled absorbing information in the same manner she did.

“I actually learned the ins and outs of county government and how it worked, and what we could do to help the citizens of Macomb County — whether it’s in Warren or Romeo or anywhere else,” Duzyj said. “She was devoted to the county, she was devoted to her family, she worked on environmental issues, such as the lake, and the county executive issue back then, which was successful.”

In terms of the county executive position, White was instrumental in helping to create the position in the first place via advancing the charter and working with chambers in various communities.

Clinton Township Treasurer Paul Gieleghem met White in 1992, when he was a college student getting started on working on political campaigns. He said the county is in a better place because of her contributions.

“What Nancy always stressed was that it’s good to have positions on issues, but it doesn’t really mean anything unless you go out and work to advance them,” Gieleghem said.

When he first ran for a Michigan House of Representatives seat, White hosted his first fundraiser. The pair served together on the Board of Commissioners in 2005 and 2006. He eventually claimed the role of chair.

When she decided to leave the political arena and spend more time with her family, not many people were surprised.

“Here she had this lifetime of public service,” he said. “For a lot of folks, it’s tough to walk away when you’re in the middle of moving things forward and advancing issues.

“For Nancy, she was right in the thick of trying to advance issues on behalf of the community, and she decided it was time to spend more time with her kids and her grandkids. She left with no regrets.”

Macomb County Commissioner Marv Sauger, D-District 2, said he knew White for quite a while. He was already on the board when she was elected.

“She loved her job, she loved the county and she just enjoyed being up there on the Board of Commissioners,” Sauger said. “She did her homework, and when she brought something in front of the board, she knew what she was talking about. I respected that very much.”

He said she would even speak to members personally about particular issues in an attempt to view scenarios from different perspectives. She also had an affinity for seniors and veterans.

“She left no stone unturned. … I’m just sad,” he said. “I always said, old politicians never die; they just fade away. That’s what happened to her.”

A “Celebration of Life” memorial was held Oct. 5 at Fern Hill Golf Club in Clinton Township. As Duzyj said, a role in government involves working for the citizens, and she was an exemplary example.

“She was a terrific individual and a terrific person to work with,” Duzyj said. “And there’s a big thing about working with (such) people.”