After working 10 years as an operational supervisor at General Motors and in pharmaceutical sales at SmithKline Beecham, now GlaxoSmithKline, Schafer then worked on a master’s of business administration.
“So many times as a woman we’re home raising the kids,” Schafer said. “Sometimes we put our education just on the back burner because it’s very important to be there with the kids, but now I have the opportunity to step up and use the degree and give back to the community.”
Schafer and her husband own Schafer Raspberries, a U-pick raspberry farm, which is a “labor of love,” Schafer said.
“The reason why we started that was to teach our kids how to work,” Schafer said. “I learned how to work being raised on a farm where I wanted those same qualities passed on to our kids.”
Schafer coaches school basketball and coached middle school cross country for the past 11 years.
Schafer also worked at Sparrow Hospital to escort visitors into COVID-19 patient rooms during the peak of the pandemic.
“When everyone else was scared, … I stepped up. I’m healthy, I have the ability to do it, and I can’t imagine somebody passing away and not being able to say goodbye because we don’t have enough people to escort them into those rooms,” she said.
District 13 Ingham County Commissioner Randy Schafer, not related to Monica, reached out to her about taking on his position that he’s retiring from after 38 years.
Randy Schafer said, “I think very, very highly of her. … She would be the only person with such an extensive background between engineering, business and agriculture — just a hard worker, just intelligent.”
Inflation is a big issue for the community now, and although county commissioners cannot control inflation, they can control how funds are used at the county level, Monica Schafer said.
“When we’re looking at a $300 million budget, it’s so important that I’m making the best choices with my educational background that I can for the people I represent,” she said. “If there’s anything I’m really passionate about, I see that people want the funding utilized back into infrastructure.”
Monica Schafer said she has frequently heard people in rural areas of Ingham County say they need representation in Ingham Community Health Centers, parks, trails, roads and broadband.
“They’re paying a huge portion of taxes, and what I’m hearing out is that so much of that money is going into Lansing,” Monica said. “They want it to stay out here.”
Monica Schafer said she believes the first crucial step is being a voice for communities and building relationships with other commissioners.
Randy and Monica have met after every Board of Commissioners meeting since January to discuss the resolutions, topics and issues that have come up.
“I can step into that county commissioner role and represent my district at the very first meeting,” Monica Schafer said. “It’s not something that I have to figure out — I’m already in tune with everything that is going on in the pulse of the county commissioners.”
Williamston Mayor Tammy Gilroy met Monica Schafer when she ran for Williamstown Township supervisor.
Gilroy said, “I think she’s of the same mindset that I would consider myself to be, and that is we want what’s best for our community, for our residents, for the current businesses that support our community and future businesses coming in. … She’s in to do this service for the residences of the businesses. It’s definitely not for her self-fulfillment or self-promotion. She wants to make sure that Ingham County is the best county in Michigan.”
There’s no ulterior motive in running for the commission, Schafer said, but it is an important opportunity to represent all communities, not just the people directly around her.
In 2018, Schafer was part of a lawsuit and several petitions to recall Williamston Community Schools board members over a gender identity policy. According to the Lansing State Journal, she objected to the policy because it did not guarantee that schools would inform parents about their children’s behavior in school.
On this election, Schafer said, “The more I get into this election, the more I realize it’s not about me, but about the people I represent. … It’s not about me running for an office for me, it’s about me representing the community, the district, and we can’t lose focus of that.”