From politics to nonprofits, Sue Harrison is involved

From the farmland of Iowa to the Lower Keys, Sue Harrison retired from Northwest (Delta) Airlines and carries a degree from University of Northern Iowa in textiles – yes, that really is a degree – with a minor in business administration.

She jumped right into the nonprofit sector when she and her husband Doug moved to Little Torch in 1984. Doug was based in Key West in the Navy during the mid 1960s and always wanted to return. He dragged Sue kicking and screaming away from the Midwest, but she fell in love with the Keys.

Volunteering for Wesley House, VNA/Hospice and Big Pine Key Food Pantry, her heart has been with her fundraising efforts at MARC House (Monroe Association of Remarkable Citizens), where she’s been on the board for more than 15 years. Sheriff Rick Ramsay appointed her to the Sheriff’s Asset Fines and Forfeitures Board when he was elected. “I know how much the nonprofits struggle for funds and I’m happy to help them help their clients,” she said.

Even though the house they built took a beating from Hurricane Irma, this week they were finally able to move back in. “Ten months to the day, all of the interior work was finished and we’ve been moving back into our house,” she said. “The outside is still being painted and the fence is up.”

So, we asked her…

Full name? Susan Gayle Dirks Harrison.

How did you get involved with the sheriff’s office? Our first foray in politics was when Doug and I ran an unsuccessful but close campaign for a neighbor running for sheriff. We found we really enjoyed local politics. While running Sheriff Ramsay’s campaign in 2012, we got to know lots of people at MCSO and those people have become some of our closest friends.

What’s next on your hurricane repairs? Our yard is scarified, but no need to do any landscaping until the next hurricane season is over. We appreciate all the wonderful people in the Keys who have gotten us this far.


Two 15-month-old pups, how’s that going? We have a brother and sister bichon frise who are the center of our lives. They are our third generation of bichons. The first were much easier, probably because we were younger. We think there should be a law: no one over 60 should be allowed to adopt 8-week-old puppies.

Mom and dad are still in Iowa? Most of my immediate family still live in Iowa. My mom is 90 and dad is 88. I expect I’ll live to 100.

What does success look like? Having all you need and being surrounded by your loved ones.

Proudest achievement? Being named MARC’s Unsung Hero in 2013.

What was your first job? De-tasseling corn during the summer when I was 12. Earned enough that first summer to buy the fuzzy white winter coat I couldn’t live without.

Dream meal: you are sitting at a diner counter eating … who walks in and sits next to you? Tom Selleck; I’ve been enamored with him since his “Magnum PI” days.

Favorite Keysy thing to do? Offshore fishing for dolphin. But we still have to repair our dock, and there’s no hurry since we lost our boat in the storm.

Which TV or movie character is your alter ego? Mary Tyler Moore.

What would your superpower be? I would love to be able to fly like a bird.

Best piece of advice you ever received? Be kind.

What is your nerdiest passion? I love to play video games on my iPad.

If you could take one item on a deserted island, what? why? My iPhone, I love staying connected with friends and family.

What was your first thought this morning? I need to go running before it gets too hot. (She’s also quite a yogi, too.)

Favorite guilty pleasure? Sitting in the quiet reading the paper and drinking my coffee first thing in the morning when Doug walks the dogs.

If you won the lottery, what’s the first thing you would do/buy? I would give MARC a huge donation and fix all of our friend’s hurricane damaged homes.

What’s on your bucket list? A trip to Vietnam.

If you could change the world, what would you do? I’d stop this political madness tearing us apart.

Favorite place you’ve traveled to? I was in absolute awe when I visited the Forbidden City and then stood on The Great Wall of China.

What did you want to be when you grew up? A teacher.

Finish these sentences…

My husband, Doug, would describe me as … obsessive/compulsive.

My autobiography would be titled … “I’m the Luckiest Person in the World.”

The Lower Keys are like … family. Some we like, some we don’t. But we all live here together.

I live by the motto … smile at everyone. I’d rather smile at someone I don’t know, than not smile at someone I do know.

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