Sears recognized for years of union activism

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Central Region President Colleen Wheaton, left, presents the region’s first-ever “Activist of the Year” award to Sheila Sears.

VERONA — Whenever our Central Region holds a conference, longtime CSEA activist Sheila Sears is key to its success.

For her many years of hard work and dedication, Sears was recently presented with the region’s first-ever “Activist of the Year” Award.

Central Region President Colleen Wheaton presented the surprise award to Sears, noting her dedication to the union, her distinctive voice and her unique talent of being completely honest with everyone she deals with.

“With Sheila, you always know where you stand,” Wheaton said, with a chuckle.

Sears first became a CSEA member in the early 1980s, becoming active as a SUNY representative for the Utica State Employees Local before switching to the Unified Court System in 1993.

She currently works as a law library assistant at the Supreme Court Law Library in Utica and serves as treasurer of the Central Region Judiciary Local.

Over the years, she has held numerous union leadership positions, including serving as a region officer, a member of several statewide committees, and the current co-chair of our region’s Education and Program Committee.

Wheaton said that for many years, Sears has been the person behind the scenes who does much of the work leading up to the region’s twice-annual conferences, scheduling and planning all the trainings and handling the logistics so the workshops are meaningful and go off as planned.

“When our workshops and trainings go well, it’s because of her hard work and attention to detail,” Wheaton said. “She is most deserving of this award.”

While receiving her award, Sears received a standing ovation not only from conference attendees, but from CSEA President Danny Donohue, Executive Vice President Mary E. Sullivan, Statewide Secretary Denise Berkley and Statewide Treasurer Bill Walsh, who all attended the recent region conference.

After accepting the inscribed crystal trophy award, Sears, known as a person of few words, simply stepped up to the microphone and uttered a humble “thank you,” before sitting back down.

Afterward, Sears reflected on her years of activism and the meaning behind her award.

“I am very pleased and honored to be the first recipient of this award. For me, it’s not about individual accomplishments, but how to complete the job and contribute to the teamwork our region and our union fosters,” she said. “I’ve been an activist for over 30 years and our CSEA family is a large part of my life. It has made me the person I am today.”

— Mark M. Kotzin

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Mark Kotzin has been advocating on behalf of union members in CSEA's Central Region for more than 28 years, directing our Union's regional communications and public relations initiatives, helping build power on behalf of more than 45,000 active and retired union members throughout 20 counties in Central New York. Mark is a proud graduate of Leadership Greater Syracuse, a 12+ gallon blood donor, and a passionate advocate for building workers' power through collective action!

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