by Graham Sturgeon, co-editor

Shiawassee County Veteran Affairs & Services Director Jerilyn Strein announced Friday, May 13 that she will be retiring, effective June 3, after more than six years on the job. Though she may fall a little short of the usual retirement age, Strein has decided to step away from the workforce with her husband, John, who will retire from his job as a physical therapist this year.

Strein took over a department with little structure in 2010 and started making changes that have resulted in sharp increases in funding and services provided. She helped the county set a veteran millage that county taxpayers approved, she obtained a new transportation vehicle to drive county vets to medical appointments, and she initiated a monthly veterans affairs newsletter to further connect the various county veterans organizations, among many other organizational tools implemented. Of all the improvements she made over the years, the number Strein may be most proud of is the $108,633,000 in federal funds her department brought in between 2010 and 2015. To put that number into perspective, the office received $14 million in federal funding in 2009 compared to $27 million in 2014.

Strein has mixed emotions about her retirement. While she is excited to begin this new phase of her life with her husband, she will miss the many veterans she interacts with across the county.

“This job has been really fulfilling for me and I will truly miss it,” Strein said Tuesday. “A lot of things lined up in my personal life that made this the best move. My husband has given a lot to allow me to hold this job, so it will be nice to be able to actually spend time with him again. I know I am going to miss this after I’m gone, but I’m preparing for it as best I can.”

Strein said that she is proud of the relationships she has built over the years, and that helping to better veterans’ lives has made the job rewarding. And while she will not be leading the department after June 3, she knows the county’s veterans will continue to be taken care of after her retirement.

“My staff and I worked as a team to build this department to what it is now, and none of what we have done would have been possible without their help,” Strein said. “Carrie (Burns) and Casey (Wilder) could run the department by themselves, so I know our veterans will be in good hands.”

Strein will use her extra time to garden and travel, hoping to spend the cold winter months in a more tropical locale. She also noted that, as one of 12 siblings, she has always had a hard time slowing down and turning her mind off. Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman John Pajtas supported that assertion, saying that Strein “will be greatly missed.”

“Jerilyn has always been one step ahead of everyone else in thinking about ways to improve the department,” Pajtas said. “She was just full of ideas; really forward thinking. She did everything she could for our veterans, which is commendable, especially considering that she is not a veteran herself. I don’t think we could have picked anyone six years ago that would have done as good a job as her. She has really exceeded expectations.”

Pajtas and his committee will be responsible for selecting Strein’s successor, and they are expecting to be without a director for a short time. Following the application process, Pajtas and the committee will gather to narrow the list of candidates down before later making a final decision on Strein’s successor. Applications can be found online, at, or at the county’s administration office, located on the first floor of the Surbeck Building in Corunna.

Jerilyn Strein to Step Down as VA Director was last modified: May 23rd, 2016 by Karen Elford