It's too bad that Caroline Colarusso is no longer working as a turnaround specialist for the United States Postal Service (USPS). The now retired former U.S. Postmaster might be able to help her previous employer with a deepening budget deficit and the real threat of Saturday mail elimination.
But the 2010 Emmanuel College graduate is embarking on new adventures, at least the fourth or fifth major adventure in her life, which has included more than 20 years in management in the USPS, a strong 24-year marriage, three children, a post-career return to Emmanuel College's adult learning program for an undergraduate degree, and her plan to attend Emmanuel College again in the fall to earn her graduate degree in management.
And she is running as a Republican candidate to become the state representative in the Massachusetts Legislature's 31st Middlesex District representing her hometown of Stoneham as well as Winchester.
"I decided that I needed to take a risk and do what I am passionate about," said Colarusso, 50, who serves on her town's advisory board and has run unsuccessfully for her local school committee. "I am very passionate about my community and I felt it was a good time in my life to take that passion to Beacon Hill."
The road that took her to Emmanuel to earn her undergraduate degree as a returning professional has been anything but direct. Growing up in Boston's North End, her parents' divorce when she was a teenager put a strain on the family's finances and meant that there wasn't enough money to send both she and her brother to college.
After spending a year at Suffolk University, the reality of those finances meant she had to leave college and go to work, eventually joining the USPS in 1987, where she became a rising star in managing the northern postal districts, serving 80,000 customers, managing $30 million in budgets, hiring and training professional staff and trying to find greater efficiencies as the postal service faced greater competition.
It was also where she met her husband, Joseph, who continues to work for the USPS. Even as she continued to juggle a busy life, including three children and her mother, who lived with her as she slipped more deeply into dementia, Colarusso said it was time she added one more piece to her plate.
"Something I have always wanted to do was complete my education," she said. "I spoke to a number of professional adults who had gone back to get their degrees later in life and I kept hearing about Emmanuel College. She met with the admissions officer and she took the plunge in 2010. "They gave me a roadmap for how I could do this and still pay attention to my life," she said. "I have a lot of good friends from Emmanuel, including many of the teachers who really inspired me."
That experience, she said, was transformational. "I think the program is truly unique. Everyone had a full-time job or a family they were juggling, just like me, and it felt very comfortable," said Colarusso. "I also liked that you could work at your own pace and deal with your life as it really is, like when my mother became sicker and I needed to spend more time with her."
While no longer anchored to a 40-hour work week, Colarusso expects to be busy in the fall with the prospect of attending Emmanuel's graduate management program and running in the November election against the Democratic candidate. Caring for her mother at home has also given her a window into the struggles of working families with aging parents, an issue she talks frequently about on the campaign trail.
"The elderly want their independence, but when they become frail or ill, we need the resources to take care of them and I talk to a lot of people in my district who are worried about how they are going to balance their lives when their parents become too frail or ill to live on their own," said Colarusso. "I am living that life right now."