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Jeanne Stine: Investing in a well-lived life

Troy's former mayor reflects on hard work, politics and how to find true purpose in life

Article by Cindy Stewart

Photography by Simran Bajwa & Cindy Stewart

Originally published in Troy City Lifestyle

If you ask former Troy Mayor Jeanne Stine the secret to a long life, she’s quick to say, ”Staying busy doing things you love.” And she has lived by this creed since she was very young.

Tell us about your childhood

The oldest of 11 children born to Eleanor and Lyle Goodwin, I was born June 18, 1929 in Birmingham. I had seven younger sisters and three younger brothers, and as a child, I was given a lot of responsibility. I attended Holy Name Grade School and consider that a great educational beginning. My mother instilled in all of her children a love for reading and a love for good books. I still remember and treasure our Saturday morning story hours.

What special memories do you have growing up?

One of the things that was so meaningful in assisting me in accomplishing what I have done in my life is the fact that my mother taught us to have faith in God and believe in ourselves. You can do anything you want to do and be anything you want to be, but you have to work hard for it.

What do you attribute to your long life?

My mom, Eleanor Goodwin, lived to the age of 97. I feel that to have a long and happy life, you have to stay busy and do what you love. It's an investment. I love being busy, whether it's teaching, counseling students, being Troy’s Mayor or, now, driving senior citizens to church and special needs adults to the grocery or Troy Library.

 

What jobs have you held over the years?

When I was in eighth grade, I desperately wanted to go to Little Flower High School for Girls, but I knew my Dad couldn’t afford it. I got a scholarship for the first year and had to work weekends ironing and scrubbing floors. At 16, I got an after-school job as a telephone operator with Michigan Bell. After graduation in 1947, I continued to work with Michigan Bell, but by the time I turned 20, it wasn’t fun anymore. Eventually, I turned to the newspaper business, working for the Daily Tribune selling advertising. But the realization came to me that I needed to hitch my star to something that would offer security, so I went back to school. I enrolled at Wayne State part-time, not knowing exactly what I wanted to study.

Why did you become a teacher?

When I was a young girl, I thought that when I grew up I might like to be a librarian, secretary or school teacher. I settled on teacher and started taking classes. I worked as a secretary while going to school. I was almost 30 years old before I received my bachelor’s degree and started teaching. My first teaching position was seventh grade at Guardian Angels School in Clawson. Five years later, I earned my master’s. I was hired by the Clawson School District and switched from teaching to counseling, spending 28 years working with parents, teachers and kids, helping solve real-life problems.

How did you get into politics?

Because of my husband Jack, who, like my Dad, had an avid interest in politics. He thought I had such an interesting history that I should run for a one-year, unexpired term on Troy City Council. He thought it was time for a woman, but I was scared to death; what did I know about local city government? Jack convinced me to run since it was only for one year. That was easy for him to say, because I had to study hard. That one year grew into 30 years. It seems unbelievable. I served as a City Councilwoman for 16 years, was elected Mayor in 1992, and was re-elected Mayor in 1995 and 1998. Unfortunately, due to term limits, I couldn't run as Mayor again, but I did get elected to City Council again in 2003. 

What are you most proud of during your time as Councilmember and Mayor?

My 30 years on Troy City Council can never be duplicated. It was a labor of love and sharing. The accomplishments were possible only through team efforts – family, friends, Council, staff and many others. I have always had a special bond with children long after my teaching and counseling career ended. One of my proudest accomplishments was getting a youth bureau established within the Troy Police Department. When they would pick up a kid, there was no connection, no one-on-one familiarity. It makes all the difference to a young person to have police officers involved in their life if they are needed. I love that we now have police officers in our schools. I also founded Troy Youth Services in the 1970s, before there was Troy Youth Assistance or social workers in the schools. When Troy Youth Assistance started, I became a volunteer for many years and still offer services for any fundraisers.

My husband Jack was a volunteer firefighter in Troy and I was a charter member of the Troy Firefighters Women’s Auxiliary. Anytime there was a house fire in Troy, the other ladies and I would be on hand with coffee, blankets and information on places to stay. I've volunteered for many local non-profit organizations including the Troy Community Coalition, Boys & Girls Club of Troy, Rotary Club of Troy, Clawson/Troy Elks, American Red Cross and Troy Historical Society, to name a few. I was also honored to be named Troy’s Distinguished Citizen in 1985 for my volunteer service to our community.

Do you have advice for young people starting out?

What a learning experience I have had and how many wonderful people I have met during my 95 years on this earth. Think positive, work hard and you can change the world. “Life is 10 percent what happens to you and 90 percent how you accept it and what you do about it. A positive attitude will allow you to be anything you want to be.”

You may not know this about former Mayor Jeanne Stine

She worked as a telephone operator, salesperson and teacher. But you may not know this about Jeanne Stine: She once joined the convent.

"After Michigan Bell, I joined the convent, thinking I would give my life to God," she says, "but convent life was not for me. I believe I am still doing God’s work, but in a different way."

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