‘Remarkable statesman’: Former Michigan state legislator Joanne Emmons dies at 88

Former GOP state legislator Joanne Emmons, who spent 16 years in the Michigan state Congress after being in local leadership, died Thursday at age 88. 

Emmons was a state representative from 1987 to 1990 and a state senator from 1990 to 2002.

Before she served as a lawmaker, she was treasurer for Big Rapids Township for a decade beginning in 1976 and was the chair of the Mecosta County Republican Party.

Upon hearing about her death, many of Emmons’ former colleagues and friends praised her service in the legislature and her community.

“Dedicated public servant”

“I am deeply saddened by the passing of my friend Joanne Emmons,” U.S. Congressman John Moolenaar (R-MI) said. “She was a dedicated public servant for almost three decades and our state is better off today because of her leadership and commitment to public service. She provided outstanding assistance to her constituents, and she was a faithful steward of taxpayer dollars, while always fighting to defend the lives of the unborn. I join her family and friends in mourning her passing and celebrating her life.”

“As I got to know her, we would talk a lot about politics and how you represent your people and what your priorities should be,” Senator Rick Outman said. “One thing I know about her is that the people of her district were always her number one priority in everything she did down there (in Lansing). In every decision she made, she definitely had a face in front of her mind of someone from her district and that it was relevant to them.”

Outman succeeded Emmons and represented the same district she did while she was in the Senate.

Outman and Judy Emmons, another Senator who succeeded Joanne Emmons, but is of no relation to her, agreed that she had extensive knowledge of Michigan political history and was happy to share that with her successors.

“Invaluable history”

“It was always fun to talk to her because she had such a vast knowledge of everything that happened before and that is important to someone like me in the day and age of term limits,” Outman said. “I don’t always know why some laws were put in place, what the ramifications were or what the impetus for them was. She could walk me through that and tell me why things happened the way they did.”

Judy Emmons added, “The thing about her is the invaluable history that she had of why certain legislation was passed and how it came to be, the deals that were made up to that point to get the votes. That is so valuable when you have term limits. The information she could share and the perspective she gave was really invaluable to us.”

Pat Currie, a longtime family friend, called Emmons a “pioneer as a woman” during her time in the Senate and in local politics. “She was very much involved with the Big Rapids Township in making what it is today,” Currie said. “Then she ran for state representative and was the underdog and wound up winning with overwhelming support from Mecosta County.”

“She was just a wonderful lady, and we were grateful and honored to be her friend,” he added. “She was very loyal to the Big Rapids community and has done so much for Mecosta County.”

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