Several years ago, Peter Spadafore and I got to know each other through our political extracurricular. Four years ago we rekindled our friendship when I was appointed to fill a vacancy on the Lansing School District Board of Education, a board of which he was the president. He has since moved on to become an At-Large member of the Lansing City Council and Mark and I enjoy watching him on our local access channel most Monday evenings. Peter and his husband Daniel are close friends of ours and I was excited to hear just how busy Peter’s days really are (as it turns out, they’re frantic.) Enjoy!
On my typical day – There’s really no such thing as a typical day for me. I have two separate and distinct “mes”. There’s the me that serves on the City Council, and there’s the me that is the associate executive director for the Michigan Association of Superintendents & Administrators (a non-profit that represents Michigan’s public-school superintendents). These two roles keep my days full of variety. But every morning starts with a few whacks on the snooze button. My alarm is set for 6:45, but it’s a rare morning where I actually get out of bed within a half hour of that goal. The dog (Sadie, ten year old black lab) has figured out that the alarm does not necessarily mean it’s time for breakfast or to venture outside, so we’ve reached a detente where she stares but makes no noise until I flip the covers back and jump into my slippers (a Topknot recommended product, I might add).
Coffee is a must. While the coffee is brewing, I scroll through my phone to see what I missed while I slept. I start with social media, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and I’m trying to get into reddit–this seems to be a good place for local and niche news. After the social is done, I sit down with my phone or iPad to see what emails I might need to tackle right away. I get a ton of email…an unimaginable amount of email actually. Most of it doesn’t need a response, or even really need to be read, but buried in the mass emails and City announcements is undoubtedly a constituent concern that does in fact need attention. If it’s not an emergency, I flag it for later and move on to work emails.
Coffee’s done. I pour a cup (black with a scoop of sugar), let the dog in and feed her, and head to the shower. I take a long, hot shower. There’s no phone in the shower so I have an opportunity to be alone and reset for the day. Sometime around now the husband (Daniel) gets up.
Clothes are important to me. I always try to look professional. At work and for the City Council you never know when you might get pulled into a meeting with someone or end up with a camera in your face, so I pick an outfit that I call “camera ready”. Usually a suit and tie, but sometimes I can’t bring myself to put on the uniform and go with an open collar. Since this is a lifestyle blog, let me get on my soap box about this for a minute.
If I’m wearing a tie, I wear a crew neck undershirt. If I’m not wearing a tie, I always wear a V-neck undershirt. And if I’m wearing an open collar, I always wear a good set of collar stays. My favorite are a brand called Würkin Stiffs. These are magnetic collar stays that keep your collar looking professional and avoid that wrinkly slice of bacon look that comes from wearing an open collar.
Editor’s Note: a few weeks ago during a Council meeting Peter was wearing a beautiful tweed jacket similar to this one and I loved it so much.
Back to it. Work varies. Some work days are entirely in the office working on catching on emails, writing articles for our various publications, or meeting with the team to talk about our communications and advocacy strategy for the short and long-term. Other work days I’m downtown. I handle government relations, so I spend a lot of time with state lawmakers trying to advance the Association’s policy goals. The truth is, a lot of my day is spent talking to people, understanding issues, and sitting in committee meetings. The glamorous life of government relations.
For City Council, there is very little predictability. Some days my Council activities peak at email and a few Facebook posts, and other days require a vacation day from work to be in meetings or to attend ribbon cutting ceremonies. I spend a lot of time reading for City Council. Emails, agenda packets, support materials. Lots of reading. I’m trying to get the City to be more paperless, but large institutions don’t change easily. Even though I try to put everything on my iPad, I show up to a meeting and this always a stack of papers at my spot.
One thing I try to do every day is spend a bit of time being active. I make it to the gym at least three days a week and try to make smart walking decisions the other days (think stairs over elevator). I spend an hour working out as an escape but also to take care of my physical well-being. In these roles, junk food and poor diet decisions are plentiful, so I have to go or it will catch up to me. I head to the Downtown YMCA, where I’ve been a member and sometimes board member over 15 years. As an aside, I love the Y. Their service mission to our community is great and if you can work them into your giving plan for the year, they can always use the support.
City Council meetings typically start around 5:30 for the Committee of the Whole and stretch until about 9 or 10:00 at night. After the meeting I head home and setup my home webinar studio to record my “Council Update”. I use these ten-minute videos to provide residents a quick recap, from my perspective, of what happened in their government that week. I don’t have a huge live audience, but I hear positive feedback from people every week, so someone must be watching.
Gabrielle wants to know what’s one thing I do every day. I guess that centers on the third “me” I didn’t mention above. The personal me. I try to spend a few minutes every day talking to my husband about our day or silly stuff. Daniel travels a lot for work, so we can often find ourselves in different time zones or even different days. A quick phone call or text message is important to make sure we stay in touch. When we are both in Lansing, it’s easier, but it’s something that actually requires effort given our conflicting and packed schedules. Yes, certainly there are days where I sit on the couch and binge Netflix, and I love those days too. But I don’t do well with prolonged relaxation. I like to plan. I keep my life together with a fixation on my calendar. When I was younger, I used my Franklin planner, technology changed and I got my Palm Pilot, now I use my iPhone. They all work well, but without the latest version, I would be lost.
Peter also thinks it’s a hoot that I use two paper calendars- one personal, one for work. Old habits. Thank you for the peek into your life, Peter! We love what you’re doing for the city.