Meet Mike Zarem

Getting to know our Communications Manager! 

Mike Zarem is from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and attended the University of Wisconsin at Madison where he received his BA in Journalism.  He spent a number of years in the hotel industry after he came to Georgia back in 1984.  After receiving his MBA from Georgia State University, he began his 23-year government career with the Georgia Merit System in 1994, starting with the State Health Benefit Plan as a Communications Specialist.  He went on to hold a number of positions with the Merit System and the Department of Community Health, including a number of years as a Publications Manager.  In 2003, Mike started working for the Teachers Retirement System, and he now manages a staff of 9 persons responsible for TRS outreach services.  Mike resides in Marietta, GA with his cat Alberta (named in honor of Albert Einstein).


What do you enjoy doing when you are not working?
I enjoy hunting for postal history from world’s fairs and expositions.  (It’s like stamp collecting, except that the stamps are on postcards and envelopes.)  I also collect world’s fair souvenirs and old photo postcards.  I enjoy seeing what the world looked like 100+ years ago by viewing these old photographs.  I also enjoy bike riding and taking auto adventures into north Georgia and the surrounding states.

Where did you grow up?  
I grew up in the northern suburbs of Milwaukee Wisconsin.  (Very cold!)

What is something left on your bucket list?  
I want to go to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris and see the Mona Lisa painting while I’m there in France.

Travel by plane, train, or automobile?
I love to travel…so, depending on the destination, I would use all three.  My preference though is the automobile, since you can stop where and when you want to…nothing beats unplanned stops to see something special.

Who was your favorite teacher and why? 
My favorite teacher was a consultant the State Health Benefit Plan used years ago to create Health Plan documents.  His name was Russ Parrish.  He was the one who really taught me how to write.

What was your first job?
My first job was at a car rental agency, where I washed dirty cars after people finished their rentals.  I also picked people up at the Milwaukee airport if they were renting a car from the rental agency.  (It was a messy job and I always got soaked.)

What is your favorite cereal?
I don’t eat cereal anymore, but when I did, my favorite was Lucky Charms.  I just loved those pastel-colored marshmallows!

What was your favorite TV show when growing up?
It was reruns of the original Star Trek.  It got me hooked on science fiction.

What is your favorite thing about your career?
My favorite thing is that I get a super sense of purpose and satisfaction when members tell me that they now understand their retirement benefit and can make the best decisions.

What's your favorite zoo animal?
I love the silver-back gorillas.  They are so majestic and powerful.  I have stared at them for hours at the Atlanta Zoo.   When I was growing up, the Milwaukee County Zoo had a famous gorilla named Samson…he loved to pound the glass in his cage…it was exciting and scary.   I was sure he would break out and eat me.

What is your favorite place you’ve traveled to in Georgia?
I’m in love with St. Simons Island in Glynn County.  I always go to the fishing pier and watch the birds flying, people fishing and crabbing, and kids playing.  The sunsets are spectacular too.  There’s a beautiful lighthouse nearby and great views of the ocean and the suspension bridge going to Jekyll Island.  I think it’s the prettiest spot in Georgia.

If you could live anywhere, where would it be?
I would like to live on the top of a mountain in the San Diego area.  It’s so beautiful out there on the coast.  Weather is always great and I would constantly be driving up and down California Highway 1.  The redwood trees are so amazing.

What's your favorite movie?
My favorite movie of all time is 2001: A Space Odyssey.  I love that scene where the monolith lands on Earth and then a chimpanzee learns to use a bone as a weapon (all while awesome, spine-tingling music is playing).  It was also the first sci-fi movie with realistic special effects…I think it set the bar high and its one reason we have such great special effects in movies now.