Suzanne Kubec has served on the PERA Board of Trustees since 2017, and earlier this year she was re-elected to the Board and elected to fill the Vice Chair seat vacated by David Hall.
Kubec recently sat down with PERA On The Issues to discuss her background and the work the Board does. That conversation is summarized below.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background
I was born in New York and moved to Denver when I was 6, then to Littleton a few years later where I grew up and consider home. I started working as a temporary employee at the Colorado Department of Transportation just shy of my 22nd birthday. Eventually I was hired permanently and stayed for 11 years; most of that time was in Human Resources. In 1998 I transferred to the Department of Personnel and Administration (DPA) and have been there for 23 years. The first half of my time in the department was with the Employee Benefits Unit. For much of that time, about 10 years, I was the 457 Deferred Compensation Plan administrator. This is where I started my passion for retirement education. In 2009 the administration of the 457 Plan was moved from DPA to PERA. The change of administration was great for participants, but not so much for me as I was without a program to manage. There was an opportunity at the State Office of Risk Management as the Liability Claims Manager. I applied and have been there for 12 years managing claims and lawsuits.
What interested you about joining the Board?
I was reading the PERA newsletter one day, and although I knew the Board members rotated through annual elections, it never really dawned on me that I could resume my passion for retirement administration through an elected position on the PERA Board of Trustees. I knew many of the staff from my time as the 457 Plan administrator. I was familiar with the retirement processes, fiduciary duties and managing investment and recordkeeper contracts. A position on the Board would provide me with the opportunity to continue contributing to retirement decisions that are in the best interest of all State employees.
Do you see or value your own personal PERA membership any differently after having been on the Board?
I have always known PERA was an excellent value because of my dad, who worked for the Department of Transportation. There were times when I thought about looking into the private sector, and he would always say, “You’ve got PERA; it’s a great retirement, don’t ever quit!” I have worked in a variety of areas in human resources for most of my career, where I continued to learn increasingly more about PERA benefits. My time on the Board, over the last four years, has provided me with an elevated appreciation for the value of the retirement benefits.
You have been on the Board since 2017. How has that experience prepared you for the role of Vice Chair?
Once I was elected to the Board, my goal was to become the chair of the Benefits Committee. Being chair of a committee was certainly a stepping stone to becoming Vice Chair. I think all my previous experience and understanding of retirement programs, coupled with the last four years as a Trustee, have provided me with the leadership skills needed to fulfill this position. I will be working closely with the Board Chair to continue to improve Trustee education opportunities along with other goals and objectives within the strategic plan. It is rewarding to be a part of making decisions that will assist members into retirement.
Anything else you want PERA members, retirees and stakeholders to know about the work the Board does?
The Trustees are well-educated volunteers and bring a variety of skillsets to the PERA Board. You must have a desire to be effective for members, as there is a huge time commitment to becoming a Trustee. Trustees provide thoughtful high-level direction to executive staff on the many retirement programs. Trustees and PERA staff are always focused on what is in the best interest of the members, and not just because they have to, but because they want to.
If I am having a conversation with a new employee, and they say “PERA probably won’t be around when I’m ready to retire,” I say, “Not if I have anything to say about that.” I always tell employees I am confident my dad will continue receiving retirement benefits, I am confident I will receive retirement benefits, and I am confident my son will receive a retirement benefit in 35 years. In addition, I point out that the Legislature created PERA for State employees prior to Social Security being enacted. So, they (PERA, and especially those who manage the investments) must be doing something right!