Heiliger at the Helm: Alumna Proudly Serves as Mayor of Wright City, Missouri
High school was easy for Michelle (Sylvester) Heiliger, ’91 ΚΑΘ.
College, on the other hand, was a rude awakening.
“I learned that my future was determined by my ability to be responsible and accountable for my work,” the Westminster College alumna says. “I also paid for my education myself, so I worked multiple jobs to make ends meet.”
While her time as an education major was marked by challenges, Heiliger feels that the experience taught her dedication, perseverance, and hard work.
“In my life now, there are many instances where I can mirror my life as a struggling college student to the multitude of responsibilities and commitments that I now face,” she says. “Westminster laid the groundwork for all the great things I am able to touch and help mold.”
Today Heiliger works as Director of Human Resources for Sellenriek Construction, UtiliSource, and Sellenriek Energy. These companies encompass broadband design, engineering, and construction.
She also resides in her hometown of Wright City, Missouri, where she serves as mayor.
It’s a role that’s sentimental.
“It was a bittersweet moment for me [being elected], as my late husband had also served as mayor and passed away while in office,” Heiliger says. “I am proud to serve our citizens and to continue the important work Dave started.”
In addition to her mayoral duties, Heiliger wears many other hats in her community. She’s a member of the planning and zoning board, the city’s emergency management director, a member of the Warren County Economic Development Council, co-chair for National Night Out, and much more.
After her husband passed away, Heiliger and her children started a charitable 501(c) foundation in his name as well.
“The Dave Heiliger Memorial Foundation exists to support families and organizations in Wright City who struggle to meet their needs,” she explains. “We have been blessed through support of local businesses and citizens to funnel nearly $100,000 back into the Wright City/Warrenton communities.”
The foundation has provided support for everything from funerals to medical bills to replacing appliances for veterans.
“You name it, and we have probably seen a request for it,” Heiliger says.
One recent moment that stands out to Heiliger is when the foundation granted a large gift to a family with a 4-year-old who needed to undergo a significant surgery.
“This family never asked for the grant,” she explains. “They were recommended to us through friends who are familiar with our work. To have a community who knows and understands our mission makes me the most proud.”
Heiliger adds, “People come to us with their challenges and trust us to be confidential, compassionate, and professional. They are not looking for pity or sympathy … they are looking to us to simply help get them back on the road. This work humbles you. We truly take for granted the gifts in our lives.”
Another moment in time that stands out in Heiliger’s memory is when her daughters, Payton and Riley, walked through the Columns on Westminster’s campus to begin their college education — just as Heiliger did about 30 years before.
“I encouraged my own children to attend Westminster because I believe in not only the education they provide, but the opportunities for growth and development,” Heiliger explains. “This school has figured out how to challenge its students to become leaders, which is what the future needs. The education is the icing on the cake.”