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A Passion for Leadership and Teamwork: Custodial Manager Annette Statum
Annette Statum vividly recalls the hot summer day in 1994 when she walked down Ainsley Drive to the Commissary because she’d heard the University was hiring. Busy raising her children at the time, Statum was looking for part-time work.
After filling out an application for a position in Food Services, she was told that they had no part-time openings but would call her if one became available. The very next day her phone rang with an offer for a 10-2 shift. “So that’s where my journey began, 25 years ago,” Statum says.
Statum’s current role is custodial manager for academic and administrative facilities in Facilities Services, where she oversees a team of over 160 staff members and seven custodial supervisors. After about a year in Food Services, she bid on a custodial position and has spent the last 24 years growing her career with the University.
Along the way, Statum has developed a passion for leading her team of custodians and the critical work that they accomplish together every day.
Working in nearly every building on campus through the years, Statum progressed from custodian to group leader. When a supervisor position became available she was encouraged to pursue it. Although she got along well with her crew as a group leader, Statum had some trepidation about making the leap to supervisor. “I didn’t think I could do it, I told them they should find somebody else,” she says with a laugh. “But there have been a few people here at the University who really believed in me and helped me realize that I had leadership potential.” Later she was promoted into her current custodial manager position, which she says is one of the most memorable days of her career with the University.
Since then, Statum has proven her leadership ability at every opportunity. “Annette is a strong leader who continues to learn every day how she and her team can best serve their customer: Syracuse University students, faculty, staff and visitors,” says Mary Pat Grzymala, senior associate director of Facilities Services.
According to Statum, the biggest key to success is understanding that her team, her people, are the heart of the entire custodial operation.
“I want them to feel like they can come to me, give me their ideas and that I’ll always listen,” she says. As her responsibilities continued to progress, Statum took advantage of opportunities for professional development, including taking online classes to help her enhance her communication and leadership skills.
“I’ve learned that I’m an egalitarian leader—I like to treat everybody as an equal, straight across the board.” She takes pride in being a fair, just and reasonable leader. Statum also prioritizes keeping her team motivated and doing what she can to ensure everyone has time off to relax and recharge their batteries—especially in light of the extra custodial duties her team has taken on in the face of COVID-19.
“We get a lot of emails from people in the buildings telling us that we’re doing a great job. I like to post them on the wall where the team can see them to help keep morale up,” she says. Over the holidays, she has worked and will continue to work extra hours to make it easier for her staff to have time off to spend with their families. “I know everybody is working hard and with COVID, things have been difficult on everybody, so they need some relaxation.”
“Annette has a lot of energy and is responsible for a 24/7 operation,” says Grzymala. “Her workday never ends and she has typically been on campus for several hours before most staff arrive each morning.”
Statum often starts her workday by 4 a.m., arriving early to make sure that her team is set up for a successful day, and is on-call most of the time. “I come from a hard-working family, three and four generations back, and I always want to make sure that work is going smooth,” she says.
In her time away from work, Statum is a self-professed homebody who likes to relax with a good documentary or movie, spend time with her family and take walks with her rescue dog, Roscoe. With five or so years remaining before she reaches retirement age, Statum counts her blessings for a long and fulfilling career with the University.
“I’ve been lucky. I have a great job where I get to be really engaged and hands-on with my group,” she says. “I get along well with trades and skills and our building supervisors. We work as a team. I know my leadership has my back and can help me work through any issues or complications.”
Statum finds purpose in being part of the larger Facilities Services team and loves to engage with everyone she meets, whether a student, superior, colleague or customer. “I can be a bit of a Cathy Chatterbox, but I just really love what I do,” she says.
Her passion does not go unnoticed. The work performed by Statum’s team to keep the University’s academic and administrative buildings clean, safe and sanitized is always of critical importance—but perhaps now more than ever to help minimize the risk of coronavirus infection in the physical spaces.
“Annette is a hard-working, dedicated employee whose leadership shows in the quality, care and cleanliness of our campus community,” says Pete Sala, vice president and chief campus facilities officer. “We are all very lucky to have her on our team.”