City Lifestyle

Want to start a publication?

Learn More

Featured Article

Know No Limits

Carmel Mayor Sue Finkam Believes 'If You Can See It, You Can Be It'

Article by Amy Adams

Photography by Logan Clark (Maverick Marketing)

Originally published in Carmel City Lifestyle

“Are you Sue?” a girl’s voice trailed across the cul de sac. 

On a lovely fall afternoon in 2023, then mayoral candidate Sue Finkam had spent the better part of the day knocking on doors and chatting with residents in a subdivision in northeast Carmel.

“Are you Sue?” the girl shouted again as she ran straight toward her.

“I am,” Finkam answered. 

“I just wanted to meet you,” the little girl said breathlessly before plunging ahead. She proceeded to talk about how she, too, was an entrepreneur with her own Mother’s Little Helper business and how she, too, had political aspirations of being the first female president of the United States.

“You know,” Finkam said, captivated by the girl’s exuberance, “if I get into office, I’d like to get some kids involved.” 

Immediately, Finkam’s new best friend began brainstorming about how she could help—making flyers and getting the neighborhood children on board. 

By this time, the girl’s mother and father had joined them.

“She’s seen the ads that say negative things about you,” the father told Finkam. “But she's stuck with you the entire time.”

“Why do you think that is?” Finkam asked. 

“Because you’re her role model,” he said smiling. 

“She made my month—maybe even the whole campaign!” Finkam says later recalling the encounter. “In the grind of a campaign, it's just like one foot after another. Everyday, you're criticized. Everyday, you're unsure of yourself. And you can say all the positive affirmations you want, but it's hard.”

Finkam didn’t really have a professional female role model growing up in a small town of fewer than 900 in Michigan. 

“I can not recall one professional woman in our town,” she says. 

Finkam was interested in the military and computers, in business and medicine. There was one doctor in town and one attorney—they were both men.

“I feel like if I had seen more options to be successful, I might have jumped in different directions earlier,” Finkam says. “We have incredibly accomplished women in this community. They are world leaders and game changers. They give young professionals something to aspire to.” 

She looks at the young women graduating from Carmel High School today and sees a world of hope and possibility—from award-winning performers to having patents to perfect SAT scores. 

“Take on the mantra, ‘No Limits,’” Finkam says to them. “Ask lots of questions. Just keep pushing. Whether it's a weakness or a strength, I tend to just plow ahead in the direction I want to go.” 

When Finkam was told she was the number one candidate for a university graduate assistantship in sports medicine but that the young man who was the number two candidate would be handling football and basketball, she took a different job. 

“I think we've all experienced things like that as women,” Finkam says. “We haven't been necessarily recognized for our skills and abilities but recognized for our gender.”

Taking an industrial athletic training job rather than pursuing her desire to be the first athletic trainer in the NFL, which still hasn’t happened, was a pivotal point for Finkam. What may have seemed like a roadblock changed the trajectory of her career. 

Having served on the Carmel City Council since 2012, Finkam was elected mayor of Carmel in November 2023. 

Not long after she took office, Finkam was meeting with several professional women who asked her when her name was going up on the city’s welcome signs. Finkam shared that she was thinking of changing the signs to simply read, “The People of Carmel Welcome You.” She was surprised when the women challenged her, insisting that they wanted their daughters and sons to see that a woman can lead a city.

In a world where fewer than 30% of elected office holders are women, Finkam is actually the third woman to be named mayor of Carmel. In fact, the city’s first female mayor, Jane Reiman,  passed along to Finkam a beautiful pin that she wore during her eight years in office in the 1980s. 

“I think women leaders lead differently,” Finkam says. “I, myself, like working with a variety of leaders, men and women, I think that makes a healthy environment.” 

Finkam is clear that people can’t just wake up one morning and decide they want to run for office.

“You have to put in the sustained, hard work that's called grassroots,” she says. “And, if a female wants to run, she has to probably put in a little extra work and grind it out.” 

The Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University has gathered data and released multiple studies on women in politics. 

“One thing they will tell you is that women have to be asked to run,” Finkam says. “I would say to women, ‘If you are reading this article, you have just been asked to run.’”

Among other goals, Finkam hopes to make headway with community engagement and city transparency over the next four years.

“At the end of my time in office,” Finkam says, “I hope people think, ‘Sue's a thoughtful, energetic and passionate leader who put the community first and drove Carmel forward.’”

  • SAIL by Owens + Crawley marks a spot in Carmel along the Monon Trail. Photo by Amy Adams
  • Photo by Amy Adams
  • This mural by Wilkinson Brothers Design welcomes visitors to Midtown Plaza. Photo by Amy Adams