Meet the Team, Volunteer Spotlight: Terry Schwennesen

By Michelle Goetz, J.D., M.S.L.A., Project Coordinator

Terry.squareTerry Schwennesen, J.D. is a legal hotline volunteer at Elder Law of Michigan, Inc. and has been a valued member of our team since July 2018. Before she started volunteering at Elder Law of Michigan, she was employed by National Grid, a utility company serving nearly seven million electric and natural gas customers in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, and New York. As a volunteer attorney, Terry is an invaluable resource to the senior legal community.  

Q: What was the most interesting job you ever had?  

A: I held a variety of positions at National Grid in the 24 years that I worked there, but one 2-year assignment was the most interesting I ever had. It happened when I was asked to assume responsibility over National Grid’s ownership interest in six nuclear power plants. My assignment was to divest National Grid’s interests in those plants as soon as reasonably possible, consistent with the best interests of National Grid’s customers and shareholders and the safety of the general public. 

When I accepted the position, I was immediately immersed into the arcane world of the nuclear power industry. I had to learn about plant operations, safety matters, nuclear regulation, regulation over the sale of nuclear power plants and, for some of the plants, issues surrounding permanent shutdown in the absence of any repositories that could store spent nuclear fuel off-site.  

It was one of the most fascinating and multi-faceted jobs I have ever held. I was extremely fortunate that I was surrounded by a seasoned team of knowledgeable experts as I led the sale process for the company. Even though I’ve already pulled the plug on most of the knowledge I absorbed over those two years, I have permanently gained a huge appreciation for the substance and complexity of nuclear power.  

Q: How did you first learn about Elder Law of Michigan?  

 A: I learned about Elder Law of Michigan from an “Elder Law” Google search on the internet. I was absolutely delighted to stumble upon a non-profit organization dedicated to helping seniors to resolve legal issues. As a lawyer and daughter helping my parents and other elder family members navigate through issues associated with Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, estate planning and on-going living assistance, I have seen first-hand how complex these issues can be, and I know many folks don’t have the resources to get the help they need. I’m glad to be a volunteer here because it’s very satisfying to go home most days knowing that I have helped someone to navigate through a difficult issue.  

 Q: What is on your bucket list?  

 A: I started a bucket list a long time ago that consisted mostly of places I’d like to visit, and I’ve done a lot of that. These days, I’m more concerned with how I can use my gifts and talents to give back to society. I see it as one of the privileges of my retirement.   

 Q: What is your hidden talent?  

 A: I think I may have a hidden talent for staging houses. A couple of weeks ago I spent a weekend with friends at their new home in Ohio and ended up moving their living room and dining room furniture around for a “more cohesive flow”. I’m starting to think I watch too much HGTV!