Editor’s note: Each issue of the Influential Women enewsletter will feature profiles of the Business Journal’s reigning 50 Most Influential Women in West Michigan. The profile first appeared in the event program.
A native of Grand Rapids, Judge Sara Smolenski was first appointed to the 63rd District Court of the Michigan Supreme Court in 1996 and has been re-elected every six years since.
In the community
Smolenski has earned a reputation among peers as a distinguished judge and a proven community leader. She has spent countless hours outside the courtroom as a legal advocate, contributor and activist for nonprofits.
In particular, Smolenski is a strong advocate for education, believing it not only improves lives, but also the community.
She has served on various boards as part of her community service: the American Cancer Society, Kent County Literacy Council, Resources Against Violent Encounters to Women, Mental Health Foundation of West Michigan, Kids’ Food Basket, YWCA, Hospice of Michigan, Michigan Women’s Foundation and Senior Neighbors.
She has earned several accolades for her work in the community: the YWCA Tribute Award, Grand Rapids chamber ATHENA Award and the Salute to Women Award from Grand Rapids Community College several years running.
A frequent speaker at community events, charitable organizations and civic and community groups, Smolenski has worked to establish herself as a popular local humorist showcasing her unique “real-life” humor.
In the legal community, she is the former chair of the Michigan Judicial Conference, as well as former president of both the Women Lawyers Association of West Michigan and Michigan District Judges Association.
She has earned the Grand Rapids Bar Association’s Donald R. Worsfold Distinguished Service Award in 2013 and the Jean King Leadership Award in 2012 from the Women Lawyers Association of Michigan.