Editor's note: Last in a series of stories on the people, places and events that made news in the region in 2008. The entire collection of this year's newsmakers is available at record-eagle.com/newsmakers.

GAYLORD -- Sherrie Schuster is in prison, a convicted felon.

Schuster once was a Gaylord city official, the executive director of its Downtown Development Authority. Today she is guilty of stealing upwards of $300,000 from public coffers and resides at a prison camp in Oakland County on a three-to-15-year stint for embezzlement and forgery.

"The town will recover from this. We will be vibrant," said Gladys Solokis, Gaylord's mayor.

Schuster still has many friends in the community who were critical of the criminal investigation, but now realize Schuster wasn't truthful, Solokis said.

David Delaney, Schuster's attorney, could not be reached for comment and neither could her husband, David Schuster.

City officials so far recovered about $189,000 in restitution payments, with nearly $100,000 more to come.

"Once we can get through it, there will be a collective sigh of relief, I think," said Joe Duff, Gaylord city administrator.

Duff took over Schuster's duties after she resigned in October 2007, when Michigan State Police began to investigate problems with DDA accounts.

Case files show Schuster used public money intended for downtown projects to pay for personal clothing, jewelry, electronics, rounds of golf and food for dinner parties. She also used stolen money for payments on her personal credit cards, records show.

The DDA annually levies taxes on businesses in downtown Gaylord and splits many bills with the city for various downtown projects and special events.

Schuster worked at the DDA since 1993 and for the last several years also was treasurer of the statewide umbrella organization, the Michigan Downtown Association.

Police reports show Schuster repeatedly wrote checks to herself for thousands of dollars. Authorities documented more than 200 checks used in the scheme.

Schuster sent large sums of money -- up to $11,000 at a time -- from the DDA to the MDA bank account, over which she had sole control. She spent the money from there, records show.

Many in the community were shocked by Schuster's crimes.

"Just that she would do something like that when she was all for downtown Gaylord," said Lynn McMillion, a manager at the Sugar Bowl Restaurant in downtown Gaylord.

Schuster's earliest possible parole date is July 2011, but she could be held until July 2023. She has no misconduct on her prison record, said Russ Marlan, Michigan Department of Corrections spokesman.

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