Albion City Council Member Marcola Lawler has been an Albion resident her entire life. Combining her experience in Albion with her unique outlook on service, Lawler is far from your average city council member.
Lawler remembers, growing up, the local hospital employing many community members and hosting activities for their families. She remembers visiting Santa Claus at the hospital with other children and watching movies downtown at the Bohm Theatre.
“Over the last 10 years from 2002 through 2012, Albion started to decrease,” said Lawler. “I know we cannot get back to where we were, but maybe we can do something different. We can still try to move forward and make it great for people who want to come here.”
Lawler began developing her passion for service early in her life by joining the Military Reserve as a chef after she graduated from Albion High School. She was inspired to enlist after talking to her father, who was a veteran. While serving, Lawler cooked for more than 500 people at a time. She said learning how to cook in large quantities helped her later in her life when she had four children. After eight years of service, she left with a very important lesson.
“I learned to be all that I could be. I never thought I would get down in the mud and shoot a weapon. I just never thought I would learn all of that in the military. I am grateful to have served my country.”
Lawler has made public service — what she considers “helping anyone that is in need” — a lifestyle. She goes door-to-door meeting with her constituents to update them on information and to see if they need help with anything.
“I wanted to run for city council because I would hear a lot of things people were struggling with or dealing with, like their homes and how they were trying to get into programs, but did not know quite how,” she said. “There were people that needed doctors, but some doctors do not take Medicaid or whatever insurance they have. I wanted to make a difference. I wanted to help those people. I wanted to get in there and find out the information I could bring back to the community.”
Going door-to-door allows Lawler to create transparency and trust with the members in her community. She has also made informational flyers on medical marijuana and hosted town hall meetings. Although many constituents do not attend the town hall meetings, she believes giving members in her community a time to voice their concerns is important. Even if only one person shows up, she believes she has done her job.
Her three main goals to accomplish as a city councilwoman by 2018 are getting the Old Union Steel Building torn down, revitalizing neighborhoods and assisting with the development of the Washington Gardner school building.
In addition to being a city council member, Marcola sits on three boards: the Downtown Development Authority, Friends of the Ismon House and Double Vision Center. All three boards allow Marcola to give back to the community in a unique way.
The Double Vision Center is a place that caters to low income and high-risk children. They help children build skills and find productive work to do, like building resumes. Although they do not offer counseling, they create programs that have similar purposes. Marcola runs a program called Creative Art through the Double Visions Center.
“We draw picture and make frames,” said Lawler. We do whatever we can with creative art. A lot of times I have experienced kids talking about the horrible things that they had experienced that night. How the police came and took their dad away or how their parents were fighting last night and they just went into their little brothers’ room and curled up together. We listen to that and try to come up with a program that will help.”
The Downtown Development Authority has allowed her to see what is going on in her community and make decisions that will help Albion in the long run, even when she may not be here.
The Ismon House is Albion’s community gathering place. It is located in Albion’s designated Historic District. It can be rented out as a hall for events up to 250 people. Lawler enjoys the diversity the Ismon House offers. “People of different colors can come together and make something work… We are all diverse. We all have different skills to bring to the table.”
Lawler also has a passion for medicine. She promised herself she would obtain a certificate or degree in the medical field before she was 40 years old. She decided the perfect opportunity came when her youngest son attended Albion College. She said he was having a difficult time adjusting, so she decided to receive her certificate in Medical Office Procedures, from Career Quest Learning Center in Jackson, to show her son that they both were capable of reaching their goals.
Lawler has created a community within the Albion community. Anyone who lives in Precinct 4, the area encompassing Harrington Elementary, in Albion should know her motto: “We will win some and we will lose some and we will come in the middle.”
Photo courtesy of Marcola Lawler