Congratulations to our Administrative and Facilities Manager, Susan Stephens, on her nomination for the Award in Administrative Excellence in Public Service!
Susan Stephens is the Administrative and Facilities Manager of the First United Methodist Church of Palo Alto (FUMCPA), California. Founded in 1894, the same year the city of Palo Alto was incorporated, FUMCPA has played an important part in the city often dubbed the birthplace of Silicon Valley. It is a place not only of worship, open to people of all faiths and welcoming to everyone regardless of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation and gender identity, it is connected to its community as a concert, wedding and dance group venue and through participation in shelters for the unhoused and racial equity advocacy.
Susan’s position is essential to the entire operation of the church. She manages and coordinates the general administration of activities in the church office and ensures proper maintenance of church files and records as a custodian of records. As the staff representative to the Board of Trustees, Susan oversees the use and scheduling of the facility, coordinating with contractors and volunteers for weddings and concerts in the sanctuary with its famous Merritt Speidel Organ. The main and extensive auxiliary buildings must also be monitored for access, maintenance and security purposes. Financial matters such as payroll, insurance, contracts and records are also under her purview in coordination with volunteers. An Administrative Manager in a church acts as the primary contact for people in and outside the organization, wearing many hats and serving the interests of a wide array of stakeholders.
Although there is only a small paid staff of approximately 10 people at FUMCPA, Susan must work closely not only with pastors and staff but also elected leadership, church members, constituents, volunteers, vendors, other churches, local government agencies, and people in need. Not-for-profit organizations such as a church are both volunteer-run and staff-run. Decision making lies with a Board of Trustees and the ordained pastors who lead the church, but also with the elected leaders of various committees sanctioned by organizational rules of governance. The lines of authority and responsibility can become blurred, requiring a steady temperament and flexibility in how things get done. Susan has shown herself able to navigate these tricky waters while executing her duties faithfully.
Susan has brought crucial industry knowledge to her role as Administrative and Facilities Manager at FUMCPA. Recently she held an administrative leadership position in the Silicon Valley Humanist Community where, similar to FUMCPA, freedom, fairness and compassion, health and happiness, science and reason are all valued and brought to bear on the operation of the organization. In that position, she developed skills in database and customer relationship management software that she is bringing to the operation of FUMCPA, introducing new technical means to support membership and donors. Her prior positions in administration for a college education foundation and a history museum reflect her long-time commitment to the public good.
With the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, Susan has become the Chair of the Reopening Task Force and the Compliance Officer overseeing the organization’s observance of state and county health regulations. Under the dynamic circumstances of virus surges and rapidly changing rules, Susan has had to interpret guidelines, checking with the county offices as needed, and communicating with all those at FUMCPA who have a stake in the operation of the church and facilities. Susan was uniquely suited to this role given her work in the 1990s for a Silicon Valley medical startup company. An infusion and travel medicine center, this company’s mission included awareness of and preparation for pandemics. There she worked not only as a receptionist but became qualified as a medical assistant, delivering thousands of vaccines during her tenure. In this position she also learned how to read and interpret health recommendations and regulations. This background led her to step up and play her vital leadership role at FUMCPA in the pandemic.
Susan displays a quiet modesty, surprising us repeatedly with technical skills she has developed in a career spent in Silicon Valley. She has newly taken on the task of analytics for FUMCPA’s social media sites and we are eager to see how that will support our digital footprint as the work of churches moves beyond brick and concrete walls to reach people in need globally.
On a personal level, Susan supports her elderly parents and has now volunteered with Santa Clara County to administer COVID-19 vaccines. We at FUMCPA are delighted to support her nomination for the Award in Administrative Excellence in Public Service.