At an early age, Tonya learned the value of hard work and was instilled with the determination to do what is right. She also learned the importance of helping others as her family took care of foster children and was active in the community. Those lessons have given her a strong foundation and a desire to give back through public service.
Tonya is a 1986 graduate of Mattawan High School. She holds a B.A. in business from Michigan State University and in 1993 she earned her Juris Doctor and graduated Cum Laude from the Detroit College of Law.
After earning her law degree, Tonya became a practicing attorney and partner at the Paw Paw law firm Schuitmaker, Cooper and Schuitmaker, where she concentrated in family, estate, business, and municipal law. She was admitted to the State Bar of Michigan (1993), Florida (1994), Illinois (1996) and the American Bar Association (1993). From 1997 to 1998 Tonya was President of the Van Buren County Bar Association. She is also a member of the Representative Assembly of the Michigan Bar.
Pursuing her interest in public service, Tonya ran for the State House where she won by strong majorities in 2004, 2006 and 2008. During her terms in the House, Tonya held a number of leadership roles including Assistant Minority Floor Leader.
In 2010, Tonya was elected to the Michigan Senate and was chosen by her colleagues to serve as President Pro Tempore, only the second woman to ever hold this leadership position. She serves on the Appropriations Committee and is Chairperson of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Higher Education. She also serves on the Judiciary, Energy & Technology, and Health Policy committees.
As a leader, Tonya has fought for the people of Southwest Michigan. Her priorities include:
- Continuing to create a better environment for job growth and retention
- Improving the state’s economy
- Getting government spending under control
- Protecting our children and our seniors
- Improving public safety
Tonya has worked on a number of initiatives such as:
- A Senior Protection package that cracks down on elder abuse and gives law enforcement better tools to protect our loved ones.
- Expanded DNA collection to prisoners, resulting in numerous cold cases being solved
- Legislation that prevents courts from dropping charges of assault or domestic violence if the accused had been previously convicted of an assaultive crime.
- Provision that requires child care providers to follow the background check regulations that apply to school employees if the child care service is operated within a school.
- Legislation requiring the State Police to create and maintain a computerized database for compiling information regarding methamphetamine manufacture, use, possession, and distribution in Michigan.
For the past eight years she has co-hosted the Mattawan Lions Club Senior and Veteran Expo in partnership with local businesses and organizations.
A community activist, Tonya Schuitmaker has been or is currently involved in the following civic organizations:
- Member, NFIB – National Federation of Independent Business
- Member, SBAM – Small Business Association of Michigan
- Member, 2010 Boy Scouts of America Regional Committee
- Member, Kalamazoo Institute of Arts
- Member, Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy
- Farm Bureau
- Fraternal Order of Police
- Michigan Flywheelers
- Rotary, Paul Harris Fellow
- Paw Paw Optimist Club
- Friends of the Library
- Van Buren County Community Corrections Advisory Board
- Kalamazoo Nature Center
- Kalamazoo Ducks Unlimited
- Southwest Michigan Gun Club
- National Rifle Association
- Daughters of the American Revolution
- Mattawan Alumni Association
- Right to Life
- Kalamazoo Republican Party
- Van Buren Republican Party
- Past member, State Board of Medicine
- Past member, Intercare Community Health Network
- Past member, Van Buren County Community Mental Health Board of Directors
- Past Vice Chair, State Board of Real Estate Brokers and Salespersons