As President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney prepare for a showdown this election year, Marti Towas remembers the time she led her own political campaign.
Towas, now an administrative assistant senior with the Comprehensive Cancer Center, in 1978 ran for the post of Hamburg Township Clerk, and won.
“I called myself a household engineer. It was very exciting running for office. I had a brochure I mailed out. If a newspaper had a forum for people running for office, you had to make sure you responded. It was just little small-time country politics,” Towas says. Re-elected three times, she continued as clerk until 1992.
Towas says the elections she managed as township clerk were among the first events she organized. She built on that experience over time, organizing events for churches in Northville and in Arizona, before joining U-M in 2005.
Today, event coordination is a key part of her job. Based in the Med Inn building, Towas performs budget reconciliation and purchasing work for Cancer Center Communications and coordinates a range of events and meetings for Patient and Family Support Services at the Comprehensive Cancer Center. She also continues to organize events outside of work, for the People’s Evangelical Free Church of Pinckney.
“More than anything, any talent I have in this regard probably comes from an inability to say ‘No,’” she says. It also stems from “the fact that I like to lead, and the idea that somebody has to step up and do things like this or they would never happen.
“I think that I have the ability to organize things and I’m not afraid to take a risk. Mostly you learn by doing and you learn how to make it better as you go along. Your organization and preparation improves and you keep trying to set the bar a little higher.”
As township clerk, Towas helped organize the Hamburg Township Police Department and participated in the planning of three township government buildings. Her township board tackled wastewater treatment issues, working with neighboring communities to form a sewer authority and build sewers, to head off area lake pollution. “What I liked about being in politics was getting to work on a lot of things that were really important for the community for the future,” she says.
What Towas likes best about working with Patient and Family Support Services is supporting its mission of easing the burden of cancer for patients and their families. “The most satisfying part of my job is when we finish an event or activity and we can feel that it went well and we can see that patients and families really appreciated it,” she says.
She says one key service is providing information to patients and family members. “The Patient Education Resource Center will do individual searches for patients who request information on certain types of cancer,” she says, adding classes and support groups also are available.
Towas helps organize meetings for the Patient and Family Advisory Board, and memorial events in honor of people who have died from cancer. “I get the mailing list ready and send out the invitations. You have to make sure there’s signage and food arrangements are made. People really appreciate that the university cares about what they have gone through,” she says, adding nearly all these events are funded through donations.
Events she helps to organize on behalf of her church include a Memorial Day Hotdog Giveaway, and church stays by homeless people in Livingston County, shared by a group of area churches.
Towas lives in South Lyon with husband Ronald.
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Marti Towas, administrative assistant senior, Comprehensive Cancer Center, on learning to organize events: “Mostly you learn by doing and you learn how to make it better as you go along.”
“DNA and the Tree of Life” exhibit, through Oct. 19, Museum of Natural History rotunda.