Former OPERS Board of Trustees member dies

Former OPERS Trustee Sharon Downs, who represented the system’s retirees for 15 years, died April 19 following a battle with cancer.

Many OPERS trustees, stakeholders and associates had the pleasure of working with Sharon during her tenure as an elected retiree representative, which lasted from 1999-2014. As a former human resources administrator for the Ohio Department of Administrative Services, she also attended many meetings on behalf of that department.

Sharon was an effective and trusted Board member, serving leadership roles on several of the Board’s committees. For instance, she championed health care for OPERS retirees by encouraging thoughtful examination of our health care plan and by seeking ways to ensure funding. That effort led to the adoption of three health care preservation plans, helping to safeguard coverage for future generations of retirees.

“Sharon always had OPERS’ long-term, best interests at heart, and thus she was a leader in making courageous decisions,” said OPERS Executive Director Karen Carraher. “Sharon left behind an incredible legacy that includes a string of accomplishments that will live on in OPERS forever. We are a much better organization because of her.”

Sharon was a strong advocate for all OPERS members. She provided vision and support in developing pension redesign recommendations that were passed into law by the Ohio General Assembly in 2012. These changes will have a lasting, far-reaching effect on the strength and longevity of OPERS.

She also generously shared her time helping to educate retiree groups, including Public Employee Retirees Inc., about OPERS policies.

“Sharon was our lifetime member, OPERS representative, champion and friend,” said Bill Winegarner, administrator of PERI. “She freely gave of her time to any of our chapters, and she had the courage to make the tough decisions to protect the retirement system and its members. She was one of those rare human beings who ministered blessings to those she represented, and to those with whom she worked.”

Sharon, 68, lived in Circleville and is survived by her husband, John P. Downs, and many other relatives.

Michael Pramik

Michael Pramik is communication strategist for the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System and editor of the PERSpective blog. As an experienced business journalist, he clarifies complex pension policies and helps members make smart choices to secure their retirement.

Michael Pramik

Communication Strategist

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