For Immediate Release
June 4, 2021
Michigan League for Public Policy CEO Gilda Jacobs retiring after 40-plus years of public service
LANSING—The Michigan League for Public Policy announced today that President and CEO Gilda Z. Jacobs will retire by the end of 2021 after 11 years with the organization and four decades of public service.
“I’ve always looked for meaningful ways to contribute to my community, and as I reflect on my career as a special education teacher, an advocate for people with developmental disabilities, a county commissioner, a legislator and as a leader at the League, I’m so proud that I can say I’ve always done work that aligns with my values and beliefs,” said Gilda Z. Jacobs, President and CEO of the Michigan League for Public Policy. “And now I’m excited for a new chapter, where I can spend more of my time making that same contribution as a volunteer, an advocate and a grandparent.”
Prior to starting at the League in 2011, Jacobs was a state Senator for eight years after serving two terms in the Michigan House of Representatives, where she made history as the first woman floor leader in either chamber of the Legislature. Jacobs also held several positions in local government before heading to the Capitol. Jacobs was the first woman elected to the Huntington Woods City Commission, serving from 1981 to 1994, including one year as mayor pro tem. She also served as Oakland County Commissioner from 1995 to 1998. Throughout her career, Jacobs has mentored and encouraged other women to run for and hold office.
“Gilda Jacobs has dedicated her life to public service, from her first job as a special education teacher to her current job as a lead voice for public policy as CEO of the League, and the three decades as a local and state elected official in between. In her career, she notched several ‘firsts’ for women in elected office and blazed the trail for the many female leaders and policy advocates that have followed, recently landing her in the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame,” said Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
“I had the honor of serving with and learning from Gilda in the Legislature, and the pleasure of working with her and the League on positive policy improvements over the last three years. In her 40-plus years of direct public service and public policy advocacy, Gilda has left an indelible impact on the League’s century-plus history and our state’s policy landscape as a whole. On behalf of all of my fellow Michiganders, I want to thank my friend Gilda for her service, and I look forward to working with the League’s next CEO to continue making our state a better place for everyone,” Whitmer said.
In her time at the League, Jacobs has been instrumental in growing the organization and enhancing its stature and impact. In her 11 years at the helm, the League helped achieve some remarkable and everlasting policy improvements for the people of Michigan, including:
Establishing and protecting the Healthy Michigan Plan, the state’s Medicaid expansion effort under the Affordable Care Act;
Successfully defending the Michigan Earned Income Tax Credit;
Developing a number of positive election reforms to improve voting access;
Making improvements to the state’s safety net programs, including increasing the asset test limit for cash, food and heating assistance programs to $15,000 and eliminating the lifetime ban on food assistance for residents with certain drug felonies; and
Being instrumental in founding the Michigan Collaborative to End Mass Incarceration and securing numerous juvenile and adult criminal justice policy reforms.
“Gilda is a force for good and keenly focused on ensuring equity for all in Michigan. She has championed systems-level policies and advocated for transformative change to support Michigan families. Both in her roles leading the Michigan League for Public Policy, elected official, and civic leader, Gilda has served as a thoughtful and critical partner to Michigan philanthropy unpacking and deepening the understanding of policy issues affecting the communities we serve. We are grateful for her countless contributions and look forward to continuing our collective work in advancing equitable solutions and opportunities for all in Michigan,” Kyle Caldwell, president and CEO of the Council of Michigan Foundations said.
At the organizational level, Gilda’s leadership has been key in helping the League take on a stronger advocacy role—fighting more directly for policy changes that help families and workers with low incomes and improve racial equity. She also prioritized the organization’s engagement with people, neighborhoods and communities around the state, creating a community engagement position that is now a three-person department to help make sure community voices were heard and amplified in the League’s work. Under Jacobs’ leadership, the League also expanded its health policy work beyond traditional health services and programs by creating a position focused on the social determinants of health and added additional staff to the League’s Kids Count project to expand efforts to analyze and improve child well-being.
“Gilda Jacobs has that drive, that special something, and she has provided truly extraordinary leadership during her decade at the helm of the Michigan League for Public Policy,” said Dr. Charles Ballard, League Board Chair and an economist and professor at Michigan State University. “Under Gilda’s leadership, the League has grown in size, scope, and influence, and has cemented its status as the go-to organization for high-quality research and advocacy on behalf of Michiganders who are economically disadvantaged. The League, and the people of Michigan, are lucky to have had her. We wish her the best in retirement (although no one who knows Gilda could possibly expect that she will just take it easy).”
Jacobs has won numerous awards for her work and was inducted into the Michigan Women’s Hall of fame in 2019. She was named as one of the 100 Most Influential Women in Michigan by Crain’s Detroit Business in 2016 and received the Michigan Food Bank Council’s Hunger-Free Award in 2015. In 2012, she participated in the Harvard Business School’s Strategic Perspectives in the Nonprofit Leadership Program. Jacobs received both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Michigan, and started her professional life as a special education teacher in Madison District Public Schools.
The League has secured The Hunter Group to conduct its search for a new president and CEO.
The Michigan League for Public Policy, www.mlpp.org, is a nonprofit policy institute focused on opportunity for all. Its mission is to advance economic security, racial equity, health and well-being for all people in Michigan through policy change. It is the only state-level organization that addresses poverty in a comprehensive way.
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