Lansing attorney elected new president-elect of national AARP

 By Jo Mathis

Legal News
Lansing attorney Eric Schneidewind is excited to be the new president-elect of AARP, the national non-profit organization that advocates for people 50 years and older, because he sees so much work to be done.
“AARP is facing some of the most interesting issues of our time,” says Schneidewind, who has been an attorney for 44 years, with the last 28 focusing on energy law in Varnum’s Lansing office.
Most of the issues involve dealing with the country’s demographic changes, including the rapidly growing number of retirees, and the social, economic and psychological consequences of that, he says.
 “It’s a chance to be involved in some really big things and come forth with positive solutions to those problems,” he says.
Schneidewind, 69, will serve as president-elect until 2016, when he will assume the role of president.
But he’s just as excited to become president-elect, a role that requires he chair the AARP’s National Policy Council.
“I really enjoy making and learning about public policy,” he says, noting that the council is charged with evaluating important issues and coming up with policies that address them. “It’s a policy wonk’s dream.”
Though Obamacare is already the law of the land, AARP maintains an interest in “bending the curve downward,” he says.
“High healthcare costs are a threat to everybody,” says Schneidewind, who served as president of AARP Michigan from 2006 to 2012.  “AARP has specific programs to help bring down costs, and that’s certainly going to be one of our key focuses.
“What we’re grappling with is that a whole generation of Americans are coming to retirement whose incomes have been hollowed out in the past 10 years, with economic pressures, the recession, housing values are down, and many of them are weighed by debt they incurred trying to get their kids through school.”
Schneidewind says he is happy to take on these volunteer AARP positions because society has been very good to him and his family. He says he grew up in a safe, blue collar Dearborn neighborhood, attended quality schools, and high quality, very reasonably priced universities, including the University of California at Berkeley in the 1960s and the University of Michigan Law School after he returned home to Michigan.
“Those are the things that were given to me and given to everybody that made it possible for me to become what I was capable of becoming,” he says. “So it seems to me that AARP gives me a chance to help other Americans achieve these same benefits. It’s something I should do, and I’m happy to do it. It’s a privilege.”
Schneidewind first joined AARP to save a dollar or two.
“I’m of German extraction, so pretty soon the denial of the age thing was overcome by the attraction to get the discount,” he said. “We do like to pinch our little pennies, so that brought me in. But then I found out that there are many programs offered; there really is a social mission that is incredibly strong. Discounts are nice, but what really makes AARP what it is, is that it works very hard to improve the quality of life of so many Americans. That’s our mission. We advocate for the 50-plus group, but actually for benefits and programs that will sooner or later benefit all Americans.”
For instance, he says, a solid Social Security means that fewer people will have to support their retired parents.
Schneidewind will switch from a partner at Varnum to Of Counsel status on July 1.  This will allow him to devote more time to ?AARP matters while keeping his hand in some projects at Varnum “just because it’s intellectually interesting.”
Schneidewind is no stranger to public service. Prior to joining Varnum in 1986, he had an extensive career in state government, culminating with a six-year term as commissioner, then chairman, of the Michigan Public Service Commission. He began serving on the national board of AARP in 2012, and is also a longtime volunteer in Lansing area homeless shelters.
“I would encourage all lawyers to get out and engage in the issues they love as volunteers,” he says. “Because they can really make a lot of difference.”