From left to right, CSEA Western Region President Steve Healy, Western Region 2nd Vice President Sheri Ambuske and CSEA President Mary E. Sullivan shortly after Ambuske received the Irene Carr Leadership Award.

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Anyone who knows Western Region 2nd Vice President Sheri Ambuske knows she is a leader, fighter and fierce advocate for our union members.

For her tireless dedication to our union and achievements on behalf of CSEA members, Ambuske was recently presented with our union’s prestigious Irene Carr Leadership Award during the recent Women’s Conference.

Carr, who was a longtime CSEA Statewide Secretary, was known as a “trailblazer” who led our union through numerous fights on behalf of what she called “work and family issues,” including establishing child care centers at state agencies, fighting for pay equity and advocating for training opportunities for administrative employees.

The award is presented to a CSEA member who takes the lead in defending and furthering the rights of women and families, as Carr had done for more than 40 years.

Like Carr, Ambuske, who is also the Cattaraugus County General Unit President, has led the way to numerous gains on issues that traditionally concern working women.

“The Irene Carr Leadership Award is given to a member who is passionate, dedicated, ambitious and contains unwavering commitment to our union and their fellow members,” said CSEA President Mary E. Sullivan. “[I] have known [Ambuske] since she started being a union member and at that time, I thought she might have some possibilities [as a union activist.]”

Sullivan also commended Ambuske’s community service beyond our union, including donating to nursing homes and coordinating drives to collect school supplies, pet supplies and children’s hats and gloves.

“Sheri truly embodies the spirit of Irene Carr,” said Western Region President Steve Healy. “I’ve known Sheri since she joined CSEA and knew from the moment I met her that she was different. She’s fierce, she’s passionate, and she’s so incredibly dedicated to each and every member of this union.”

Taking the lead

Ambuske started her CSEA activism as a grievance representative and steward, eventually working up to her unit and region elected offices. She is also an AFSCME delegate, serves as a liaison on her region’s Women’s Committee and graduated from our union’s Leadership Education and Development (LEAD) Program.

Ambuske worked tirelessly to ensure her employer secured county satellite buildings from potential workplace violence threats. Ambuske also helped create programs for sick leave incentives and helped lead the way to achieve fair contracts, pay equity, worker access to training and worker justice.

“Equality and diversity within the workplace are just a few of the things we have witnessed with Sheri’s leadership,” said Cattaraugus County General Unit Vice President Lisa Aldrich, who is among those who nominated Ambuske. “She is a fierce advocate for the members and continuously fights to further their rights. Equality in the workplace means more than just the absence of discrimination.”

In the Cattaraugus County General Unit’s most recent contract negotiations, Ambuske led the way in gaining insurance coverage for in-vitro fertilization (IVF) and fertility treatments.

“With women increasingly delaying childbirth in order to further career goals and obtain financial stability prior to starting a family, a significant number of women are facing infertility issues and impaired fertility,” said Cattaraugus County General Unit Treasurer Maureen Krueger, who also nominated Ambuske for the award. ‘Sheri recognizes the unique challenges that working women face.”

Ambuske is also a strong advocate for child care issues, as she is herself a single mother to two sons. One son, Kohl Ambuske, was present when she received the award.

“They have supported me, listened to me, walked picket lines and have helped guide me into the leader I am today,” said Ambuske about her sons.

Lifting others

Ambuske has also inspired and mentored other members, including her co-worker Angela Lockwood.

Ambuske urged Lockwood to become involved in the region’s Women’s Committee. Lockwood now chairs the region’s committee and she serves as the Western Region representative on the Standing Women’s Committee.

“Knowing I have [Ambuske’s] support has given me the faith I need in myself to persevere,” said Lockwood. “I know I will be facing challenges in my new endeavor, but with Sheri’s knowledge and experience, I will be successful in all that I do.”

Ambuske’s natural confidence, leadership and passion have inspired many members, and she often takes time to help others who need guidance.

“I encourage each of you to make sure you are being the person you needed when you first joined; that you are taking time to educate, mentor and guide every single person who is asking for assistance,” Ambuske said as she accepted the award.

Ambuske’s unmatched advocacy has truly left a mark on members.

“She personifies strength, dedication, ambition and lives her life in pursuit for fairness and quality for all,” said Lockwood. “I feel that she embodies everything that CSEA stands for.”

— Madison Ruffo


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