In this series of one-of-a-kind interviews, the Michigan Republican Senate Blog will be taking a nonpolitical glimpse into the lives of our members — outside of public office.
If you had to use one word to describe Jack Brandenburg it would be industrious. Since he was a young man, Jack has always been focused on what it takes to get the job done. And, although he has had success, it has never been easy and has never been achieved without a lot of hard work. Jack set his goals high and if he failed, he picked himself up and tried again — that’s the philosophy that he lives his life by.
Jack was born and raised in Canton, Ohio and is the son of Donna and Murray Brandenburg. He has one sister, Debbie Bechton. Senator Brandenburg enjoyed sports as a child and did very well in the classroom. He credits his parents for setting a strong example in teaching him the importance of getting a good education and working hard to achieve his goals. Jack credits his work ethic to his dad, who worked 42 years for the Pepsi-Cola Company before retiring.
“My parents recently celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary,” Brandenburg said. “They both still play golf and are very athletic. I am very, very grateful to be a part of their lives. My mom and dad were one helluva pair of role models for my sister and me. A seven day work week was routine for my dad. It was beneficial for me to see that kind of work ethic up close at such a young age.
“My mom was a doctor’s assistant and she always stressed the importance of a dollar to my sister and me. Looking back, I know there were times where my parents lived week-to-week. However, my sister and I never lacked for anything. It was a great way to grow up.”
Brandenburg remembers always having some kind of part-time job to make money. He recalls his days as a caddy, cutting grass, being a bartender and driving Pepsi-Cola trucks.
“My dad, to this day, still tells people that I was the only guy on the block who was never broke,” Jack laughs. “That is the truth. My parents taught me many things, but first and foremost was to be honest and work hard. They always said that if you were good at those two things, good things in life will happen for you. They were 100 percent right.”
Good things were right around the corner for Brandenburg. After earning a degree in Business Administration from Ashland University, he met and married his wife of 37 years, Karen Linenger, and together the couple have four children: Bryan, Rhett, John, and Paige. They have also been blessed with their first grandchild, a boy named Abel.
It was not long after Jack and Karen met, that the future senator decided it was time to start his own business. He and Karen started Blue Water Industrial Supply, Inc. literally out of the trunk of Jack’s car. The company now does business with railroads across the Midwest and into the South.
“I remember after college moving to Detroit and I only knew one person and he moved to Chicago a month later,” Brandenburg said. “I worked really hard to get a good customer base and was making some good money, but it was for someone else. I thought it was best for me and my family that I be my own boss. After, that I never looked back and the rest is history.”
In addition to the senator’s personal success, Jack and Karen raised their children in Harrison Township, where the entire family has been active in the community. Each of their four children graduated from L’anse Creuse High School, but it was a small school in Hamtramck, St. Florian High School, that Jack knew needed some help.
“The reason they needed help was because they could not pay for football coaches — they just could not afford it. They needed help,” Brandenburg said. “My friend, Ed Belcrest, asked me to help and I said yes, but I wanted to talk to the players first. There were 23 players on the team and they were just great kids.
“I coached three years there and it was worth my time to do it for free. All of these guys ended up successful. Some are in law enforcement, teaching and in business. To those guys I coached at St. Florian, I have this to say, ‘Gentleman, it was my pleasure!’
“As with the birth of my first son, Bryan, my life changed. I feel my life is changing once more, with the birth of my grandson Abel. I really want to teach him about all the things I have learned along the way in life, not just in sports, business or politics. Although, I must concede, there is a lot to be learned from all three.
“I have always said that the future is a mist, because it most certainly is. Another saying that I am partial of is this: work hard, play hard. I just turned 64 and I am going to follow my advice!”