Ruth Johnson speaks for Leadership OU

On Thursday, March 3, Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson visited Oakland University to speak to the student organization “Leadership OU.”  

Rachel Williams

Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson and her Chief of Staff Mike Senyko visited Oakland University to present for the Leadership OU organization.

On Mar. 3, the two shared their stories about how they came into their leadership roles and about the initiatives they had set in place.

Leadership OU is an organization that works with the Alumni Association, pairing up certain Oakland students with an alumni mentor. The students apply to be a part of the organization and meet with successful alumni throughout the year to learn about their different fields of study.

Johnson has been an active Oakland alumna, speaking at OU Day in the past and coming out for events like the one with Leadership OU.

Senyko is also an Oakland alumnus, receiving his Master’s in public administration here.

Johnson started the program sharing about her childhood and path to office. She grew up in Waterford and her father passed away when she was 13, so she and her siblings had to get jobs at a young age to help support the household.

Johnson’s first job was delivering papers around the neighborhood. She bought a motorcycle and would fill in for the paper boy.

She understood the need for higher education and went on to attend Oakland Community College for two years then came to Oakland.

Senyko grew up in Saginaw and first attended Saginaw Valley State University then Michigan State.

After he graduated, he was still unsure of what he wanted to do. He went from being an assistant manager at a drug store to the Springport village manager.  He found his passion in public administration and came to Oakland for his Master’s degree.

The two outlined some of the initiatives they had put in place such as the launch of ExpressSOS.com which aims to shorten lines at the Secretary of State and allow people to handle some transactions online.

Johnson advocates for motorcycle safety, riding a Harley every May around the state to educate citizens.

She has also worked has with the SOS, Gift of Life Michigan and Oversight Michigan to add two million Michigan citizens to the organ donor list since 2011.

Beyond these initiatives, Johnson’s team works for transparency in government. Co-workers call her the FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) queen.

“Since the day I got in office, which was 27 or 28 years ago, I have been on a mission for more disclosure,” Johnson said.  “I really think we need to go back to more transparency. That’s what makes this country strong, in part.”

She told the students present to find their passion and make things happen.

“I recommend that whatever you choose to do, you have a passion for,” Johnson said.  

Ending the presentation, she encouraged everyone to go out and vote this election season. She mentioned the SOS’s website, michigan.gov/vote where people can look up candidate information, view ballots and more.