Community service motivated Burton’s first female mayor more than politics

BURTON, MI — Jane L. Nimcheski’s local fame was her election as Burton’s first female mayor, but friends and family say she cared most about community service — something that inspires her. did stand out in a city known for its tough-and-tumble politics.

Nimcheski, 79, died Wednesday, Sept. 14, in Ann Arbor, nearly 40 years after he was first sworn in as mayor, just 11 years after Burton transitioned from township to city.

A former nurse at Flint’s St. Joseph’s Hospital and Flint Osteopathic Hospital, Nimcheski was also known for her work with local Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts, as a member of the Burton Women’s Fire Auxiliary, and as coordinator of the religious education and school board member. at the Saint-Rosaire Catholic Church.

After an election loss, she retired from politics, volunteering at the Genesee County Free Medical Clinic and advocating for children as an ad litem guardian.

“She was not a politician. She was more of a servant to the community,” her daughter Michelle Welch-Kohn said on Tuesday, Sept. 20. “I think it’s because she was raised in her faith…She didn’t quote Bible verses – she led her life.

Nimcheski served as mayor from 1983 to 1991 after first being elected to the city council in 1979.

As mayor, she helped bring public water to Burton, supporting the replacement of an aging community well system that only served part of the city, said Jeff Wright, County Drainage Commissioner. Genesis.

“She knew it would jeopardize her position as mayor” due to rising taxes and fears that residents with wells would be forced to hook up to the water system, Wright said, but “she did what she thought was fair for everyone….and it improved water quality for people (and allowed businesses to grow.) That’s how selfless she was.

Nimcheski helped pave the way for Burton’s politics for other women, including Paula Zelenko, who served as state representative for the region and mayor 20 years after her predecessor left.

“I think it’s always harder for a woman in our society…and she did it with a good heart,” Zelenko said. “I could call her for opinions and she didn’t hesitate to call me to let me know what she thought.”

Welch-Kohn said her father, Warren, a former city volunteer firefighter, remembered a story at Nimcheski’s funeral on Tuesday about his wife’s relationships with city residents who would come to see her, faced with water cuts because they were behind on their bills.

“My mother, on her personal checkbook, would pay with our family’s money to have the water restored,” she said. “That tells you something…She was genuine, kind and loyal. If she told you she was going to do something, she did it.

In 1996, Nimcheski told the Flint Journal that before she decided to run for public office for the first time, she followed her lifelong habit of asking God for guidance the day before the deadline for board nominations. municipal.

Until then she had been a wife and mother whose main activities outside the home revolved around Holy Rosary and her school in Genesee Township and she had decided that was out of the question.

Nimcheski, who attended Sacred Heart School in Birch Run, said she remembered the words she heard as a student there.

“I remember one (person) in particular, Sister Jeanette…” said Nimcheski then. “I was in sixth or seventh grade. Whenever I wanted to do something, I remember her telling me, ‘You can do anything or be anything you want to be as long as you have faith in God.’

Decades after making the decision to run for office, Welch-Kohn said she still couldn’t “go anywhere without someone saying, I know your mom.”

“She always wanted to fight for the underdog,” Welch-Kohn said. “She was very selfless and she helped a lot of people.”

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Norma P. Rex