Susan started her professional career as a public-school teacher. That’s how she met her husband Tom who was also a teacher. The two started a small “fixer upper” business where they bought real estate, remolded it and then leased it out. When the Kansas legislature passed a bill that tripled commercial property taxes and almost doubled residential property taxes, Susan set out to find a candidate to run for her local house seat that was both pro-life and fiscally conservative. After several people told her no, she ran for and won the seat herself – launching an unexpected political career that would take her to top leadership positions in both chambers of the state legislature.
After incidents of sexual harassment rocked the state capitol in 2017, Susan acted quickly to take on the old guard by updating sexual harassment policies that hadn’t been touched in twenty-three years. She reached out to the Kansas City-based Women’s Foundation to help draft policy recommendations designed to make the state capitol a safe workplace for everyone. Under Susan’s leadership, the state legislature implemented sexual harassment training for all interns, legislative staff and legislators. She created policy to specifically protect statehouse interns from inappropriate behavior. Probably the most important policy implemented by Susan was the provision allowing for anonymous reporting to protect against retribution.
The greatest battle of Susan’s life, while deeply personal, played out during her time in public life. During the closing days of the 1996 legislative session, Susan was diagnosed with stage four cancer that was determined to be incurable. After months of inactivity, she made a miraculous recovery that would allow her to go on to win reelection to the House and be elected Speaker Pro Temp. As Speaker Pro Tem, she was able to pass Kansas’ first act to protect the rights of the unborn. Unfortunately, Susan’s fight against cancer wasn’t over. In 2011, she was diagnosed with an aggressive form of non-Hodgkin’s cancer forcing her to undergo heavy chemo therapy. The treatments may have left her bald, but they didn’t weaken her fighting spirit. In 2012, she was elected the first female President of the Kansas Senate.
Susan’s battles with cancer gave her a unique appreciation and perspective of the need for a healthcare system that ensures every family has access to quality care at an affordable price. It made her determined to make certain no one is ever denied coverage because of a pre-existing condition. It strengthened her resolve to fight against socialized medicine which always leads to long wait lines, lower quality of care and lack of choice.