Baker: ‘Take action and get involved’


COMMACK — Even during retirement, our CSEA activists still never quit.

One of those members is Suffolk Retirees Local 920 member Shirley Baker, who has been a CSEA member since 1967.

For more than 20 years, Baker has served in various titles on our Long Island Developmental Center & Sagamore Children’s Psychiatric Center Local 430 executive board, including as local president and vice president.

Outside of her job and union, Baker began serving her community in another way — as a trustee on the Wyandanch Union Free School District School Board. Even as a retiree, she continues to serve the children of her community.

The Long Island Reporter sat down with Baker to learn more about her extensive political career.

Long Island Reporter (LIR): What made you decide to run for the trustee position?

Shirley Baker (SB): Someone in the community approached me about running because she thought that I would make a good candidate.

LIR: How long have you served in that position?

SB: It’s a three-year-term and this is my sixth term.

LIR: What keeps you coming back?

SB: I love advocating for the children and I want to see the plans that we make for them come to fruition. We try to work with the superintendent to figure out what’s best for the children.

LIR: How do you think your background as a CSEA activist has aided you in your political career?

SB: Advocating for co-workers in Local 430 was a great training ground. I’ve always been active in the school because my children are a product of the Wyandanch School District.

I want to thank my union for supporting me during the election process. I was a CSEA endorsed candidate and my union sent out cards that urged community members to vote for me on Election Day.

LIR: What inspired you to enter politics?

SB: Being a union member and serving as a president and vice president in my local. I was a shop steward before I became an officer.

LIR: What made you decide to join our Suffolk Retirees Local 920 after you retired?

SB: I still wanted to be active and I like being part of CSEA. I served on the retiree board as the secretary until this last election.

LIR: What do you like about being a retiree member?

SB: I like activism. I think we need to keep abreast of everything that’s going on in politics and in our communities, as it pertains to our lives.

LIR: What is one of the best experiences you’ve had as an activist?

SB: Being a delegate to [the 2000 and 2008 Democratic National Conventions]. Someone from CSEA Albany headquarters called me and assigned me to the position. [laughs]I still don’t know why they chose me.

LIR: How did it make you feel that you were chosen to do that?

SB: It made me feel like I was on top of the world.

LIR: Recently, you were recognized for your community activism. Tell me more about that.

SB: Every year, the Wyandanch community holds Wyandanch Day. This year, they recognized a few other people and me at a ceremony attended by about 200 people. [State] Senator [Phil] Boyle sent a representative to present the commendations; mine were for activism and education. The event was held on Mother’s Day and my family and friends attended.

LIR: What would you say to a member who is looking to get more involved?

SB: Just be you! Take action and get involved in your community and the schools. It’s very important to know what’s going on in the school that your child is attending.

— Wendi Bowie

Interested in becoming an activist?

Visit the CSEA Education and Training page: for a schedule of trainings, including steward training.


About Author

Wendi Bowie

Wendi Bowie is an award-winning journalist who has focused the majority of her career on covering Long Island news. Her efforts have earned her the Press Club of Long Island Media Award for Public Affairs and the Long Island Coalition for Fair Broadcasting Folio Award. Wendi was drawn to her current position as Communications Specialist for CSEA’s Long Island Region because it speaks to her strong desire to champion the rights of the common man and woman.

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