After a few years on the West Coast, native Michigander, Sara Wurfel returned to the place she says has always been home. As a self-proclaimed “Michigan Ambassador” Wurfel chose mid-Michigan to advance in her career and set roots with her family. A job opportunity brought Wurfel back to Michigan but she notes that the mitten state has always had a special place in her and her husband’s heart. “This is home. We left at the end of 2004 and we were ready for something different. We did love the West Coast, I loved that you could be by the beach and the mountains, but this was always home,” Wurfel said. “You hear things about your home and know about the tough times but it still feels like home and I would always say ‘Hey! It’s not really like that!’ We were Michigan ambassadors. We stayed in touch with family and friends; there was just this natural pull. We were really happy out West but after I got that call (for the job) you just start thinking.” Wurfel serves as press secretary for Governor Rick Snyder, a job that presented itself in a very non-traditional way, but one that Wurfel couldn’t pass up. “We had been in Portland for six years and I got this call I thought was just to chit-chat but it ended with ‘Hey, do you want to come back?’ I swore I would never work for another elected official again,” Wurfel said. “I love public policy but the extreme partisanship had worn on me, but watching his style and the things he does was interesting. We sat down over lunch and I had decided I would hear him out, but by the time I got home I said to my husband, ‘I think we are going to do this.’” After making the decision to join Governor Synder’s team, Wurfel and her husband had to make a quick transition back to Michigan. Looking back Wurfel admits it was worth it, but at the time it was a mix of emotions and a lot of packing. “We were excited on one hand but not really certain. We had to work through everything quickly. The Governor was set to take office in January, which gave us about two and a half weeks, so I had to come out right away. We had to box up the majority of our house and pack it in a U-Haul. It was a lot to find a place to live and drive across the country in such a short amount of time,” Wurfel said. After getting settled back in her native Michigan, Wurfel hit her stride with her new team and embraced the challenges that come along with a very fast-paced job. “It’s the breadth and depth of the issues facing the state and that the Governor and our team have to address. I have a list every morning of tasks but it almost never works out that way,” Wurfel said. “I’m not kidding, at least 10 other issues pop up in the course of the day. We get somewhere around 100 media calls every day. I’d say about 50 percent of them are on the same topic but the other 50 percent are all different topics — they can be from all over the map. The biggest challenge is making sure we are sending out the most accurate and current information because things change so quickly. But we all work as a team so it is the most challenging part but also the most rewarding.” A bachelor’s degree in journalism from Michigan State University and a background in writing for print gave Wurfel a solid foundation. Wurfel knows from experience what media outlets are looking for and how to best simplify information to make sure the message isn’t lost in translation. “I started out in print and if you don’t have credibility you don’t have anything. Things move so fast, so being as quick and responsive as possible and making sure the information from two days ago is still accurate now is key. Things evolve quickly, so it’s a balancing act between being super fast and super accurate. Reporters have changed, they can’t wait for a call back later in the day, they are posting online constantly, so if I don’t answer my phone as soon as it rings we can miss that opportunity,” Wurfel said. But even with years of experience, moving at such a fast pace can breed a little anxiety for a hard worker like Wurfel, who likes to do everything the best she can. “Sometimes moving so fast makes me wonder if what I am putting out is always my best,” Wurfel said. “I was brought up with a strong work ethic and my father always said, ‘If you can’t do it right, don’t do it.’ So sometimes I struggle knowing that that’s not always right. I have to remind myself to not let the perfect be the enemy of the good.” The one place Wurfel gets to slow down and enjoy some quality time is at home with her husband, Brad and her son, Logan, 15 months. Working at a non-traditional job can be a struggle with a family but Wurfel does her best to find a balance that works for everyone. “I work 60 hours a week and a lot more hours on nights and weekends. Issues pop up all the time, but I try to find that balance. I take Logan to school in the mornings and it is our time during the week. My husband is awesome, he is a loving dad and he does the same thing I do so there is a level of understanding. We are full partners,” Wurfel said. “I try to be home for dinner time, bath time and bedtime when I can. Sometimes that means I’ll leave to do those things and then go back to the office or sometimes I stay until right before. It is always a challenge to find a balance, but I do the best I can at every piece of it.” Wurfel knows that without the support of family and friends she may not be where she is today and she gives credit to those who spent extra time to harness her talents and help her become who she is. “My husband and my family have always been there, and my Bestemor (grandmother in Norwegian). When I look back through there were a few teachers that harnessed my love of English and government civics. I have had people in my life who will take the time to mentor people they see potential in. They are people that want to help you and support you and counsel you. I can point to every person and somebody has been a resource in my career and that is inspirational.” Wurfel is motivated to do the same. On top of everything else she juggles she still has a drive to mentor and help the next generation navigate the fast-paced world of politics. “I would say don’t be afraid to try new things and be interested in things. We had an intern at our office, Julie Williams, who was willing to do anything. She would say, ‘I’m not comfortable, but I am going to try it anyway.’” Wurfel said. “This is not an 8 to 5 job but there are a lot of opportunities. Try an internship, try new experiences and ask lots of questions.” And the one question left to ask is, “how does she do it all?” Wurfel will be the first to admit, it isn’t always easy to make it work, but it is always worth it. “I just enjoy the time I have. Finding the balance of being a good mom, a good wife, a good friend and a good employee. It’s about finding a way to make all those things work,” Wurfel said. “I haven’t found the perfect formula yet, but tomorrow is a new day to try and I think I’m getting pretty close.”
Ami Iceman-Hauter is the Brand Manager at M3 Group in downtown Lansing. Iceman is a graduate of Michigan State University with a bachelors degree in creative advertising.