2017 40Under40: The Region’s Most Influential Professionals Under Age 40
The 2017 class is comprised of an exact split of 20 women and 20 men, as well as 16 new faces and several multiple-year recipients. They are so much more than their job titles – they are advocates for the homeless, children and the local farmer; they are job creators, decision-makers and financiers; green advocates, activists, thinkers and planners. They are influential in so many ways, yet in their bios below you will read about the local people who inspire them professionally.
After receiving another record 130-plus nominations from the community, a panel of judges painstakingly reviewed the submissions and chose the 40 influencers whose professional and community efforts during this past year had the most impact.
The panel included K.K. Trucco, vice president of recruiting for Hagerty; Doug Luciani, CEO of Traverse CONNECT and the Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce; Luke Haase, publisher of the TCBN, Northern Express and The Ticker; Lynda Wheatley, editor of the Northern Express; and Gayle Neu, TCBN contributing editor.
Many thanks to Hagerty, again this year’s signature sponsor, as well as the companies that donated goodies for the “swag bags” given to the winners at the reception.
The TCBN will start collecting nominations next April for the 2018 40Under40. Watch for information in the TCBN and The Ticker starting next spring.
Attorney and Equal Justice Works Fellow, Legal Services of Northern Michigan, 34
Organizations actively involved in: Safe Harbor; Justice for Our Neighbors; Central United Methodist Church; El Club de Español; Returned Peace Corps Volunteers of Northern Michigan; Free Legal Aid Clinic; GTLA Bar Association – Women Lawyers Association.
Highlight from last year: Literally rerouting lives. For our low-income clients, having an effective advocate is the difference between stability and homelessness. Thanks to Legal Services of Northern Michigan and funders like Equal Justice Works, Rotary Charities and Cherryland Cares, I created a new public interest attorney position to provide legal services at these pivotal moments, using the 86th District Court’s Eviction Diversion Program and its Community Outreach Court.
Local person who inspires me professionally: Christie Minervini, owner of Sanctuary, is the Safe Harbor Homeless Shelter’s fundraising chair and all-around advocate for people needing a second chance. I’ve never seen Christie back down from a challenge or a worthy cause. She strives to speak with an informed voice on the most pressing issues facing our community, including safe shelter for our most vulnerable neighbors.
My next big thing: ‘Street Law’ class in our high schools. Civics education was formative in my life, but too often it’s too little, too late for our kids. Criminal defense attorney Michael Naughton and I are starting a program that brings volunteer attorneys into the classroom. We will have real-world conversations with students about the law, access to justice, whether justice is blind, and what we can do to make it more fair.
Who knew: In my early twenties, I wrote a book for youth on civic engagement – about how even one passionate young person can shape the world. I never published it … not yet, anyway.
Executive Director, Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce, 31
Organizations actively involved in: Boy Scouts of America; Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwestern Michigan; Freemasonry; TC New Tech.
Highlight from last year: Becoming the executive director of the third largest chamber in Michigan.
Local person who inspires me professionally: Russ Knopp. He is a successful owner of Comfort Keepers, actively involved in legislative advocacy for small businesses, and a champion for the Alzheimer’s Association and Big Brothers Big Sisters. Russ is a shining example of how you can enjoy success in life while still taking care of those around you. His mentorship has meant the world to me and our community is truly a better place because he is here.
My next big thing: Rolling out a new professional development and business development series to add value to our business owners and members in our region. Also, rolling out great updates to some of our signature events!
Who knew: I play guitar and sing in a band called The Drift based in Harbor Springs.
Host, The Christal Frost Show on WTCM NewsTalk 580; afternoon news anchor on WTCM FM & AM, 38
Organizations actively involved in: Traverse Bay Children’s Advocacy Center; CherryT Ball Drop, president and co-founder; National Cherry Festival board of directors; Parallel 45 Theatre, board president; Impact 100 Northern Michigan; Goodwill Industries of Northern Michigan.
Highlight from last year: In February, The Christal Frost Show celebrated its fourth year on the air. I was also named one of the Top 50 Leading Women in Business by the Traverse City Business News. I would have to say, however, that I am most proud of being able to help raise a large amount of money for one of my favorite organizations, the Traverse Bay Children’s Advocacy Center.
Local person who inspires me professionally: Meredith Wells Hawes. Before Meredith was covering 16 states as the regional education specialist for the National Fire Protection Association, she was the director of the Boys & Girls Club of Grand Traverse. Meredith hired me when I was 22 years old and quickly became my mentor, introducing me to the world of nonprofit management and teaching me about the importance of giving back to my community. Through the past 16 years, both of us have evolved professionally, and although I still look to her for professional advice, she has become a close friend.
My next big thing: With two teenage boys in the house, my next big plan is to survive!
Who knew: I love working in restaurants. I love the pace and the feeling that comes with providing great service to customers. In fact, I like feeling connected to the foodie scene so much that I moonlight one or two nights a week (seasonally) as a server at Bourbon’s 72 inside Turtle Creek Casino.
Owner, Events North & Put Your Phone Down!, 38
Organizations actively involved in: Rotary Charities, trustee; Impact TC, co-president and founding board member; Traverse City Downtown Development Authority, board member; Rotary Club of Traverse City, president-elect.
Highlight from last year: First time ever, Michigan Meetings + Events Best of Michigan Awards were hosted in Traverse City. The team at Events North led the planning of the event using all local vendors and it was amazing to showcase our work to our peers. Events North took home the award for Best Meeting Planner in the state from Michigan Meetings + Events magazine for the seventh time that night.
Local person who inspires me professionally: When identifying potential board members for Impact TC, I thought really hard about people whose work I admired and hadn’t yet had a chance to work with them. I’m astounded by the leadership around that table — they all inspire me.
My next big thing: Next year will be Events North’s 10th anniversary — get ready for a big bash!
Who knew: When I was in 3rd and 4th grade, I went with a friend and her family to our local gun club once a week for slingshot. I still have my trophy. I bought my daughter and son slingshots and targets last year for Christmas.
Managing Director/Owner at RE/MAX Bayshore Properties, 34
Organizations actively involved in: Brickways Foundation and Executive Boards. Brickways is a nonprofit corporation dedicated to providing quality supportive housing and essential support services for adults with developmental disabilities.
Highlight from last year: Opening our Manistee office has been a significant accomplishment because it’s been long time in the making and I’m so excited for its potential. Several years ago, I had the opportunity to meet some talented agents from Manistee and I knew we could build an office around them. After only one year with its door open, RE/MAX Bayshore is already second in sales volume in the Manistee market!
Local person who inspires me professionally: Other than my dad and mom, my uncle Dan Brick is a great inspiration. He built two very successful businesses based on integrity and sold them both on his terms. He is a great father to his kids, an amazing husband to my aunt, and a role model to his nieces and nephews. I have learned countless lessons about business by simply watching him treat his clients like family and over-delivering what is expected.
My next big thing: The next big thing is that our family business is expanding. After years of hard recruiting at Thanksgiving dinners and late nights on my porch, my sister and brother in law, Betsy and Tommy Corbett, moved to Traverse City in July and have joined my dad and me as owners of RE/MAX Bayshore Properties. They are also partners in our new sales team, Brick & Corbett. They have been successful real estate brokers in two different, highly competitive markets. I am very excited to learn from them and see how they change our company and the real estate market in Traverse City.
Who knew: My first job was selling vacuum cleaners in New Zealand.
Deputy Director, Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities, 35
Organizations actively involved in: Rotary Club of Traverse City; Michigan by Rail Coalition; Traverse City Young Professionals; VISTAGE Executive Coaching.
Highlight from last year: Assumed oversight role of Groundwork’s $1.4 million annual budget; launched a major cross-state passenger rail transportation study; co-launched a live-stream video storytelling campaign that highlights young professionals and entrepreneurs in the Traverse City area.
My next big thing: I’m excited to support Groundwork’s top-notch staff as they continue to build the area’s local food system, city-building efforts and clean energy economy.
Who knew: I’m half-German and my middle name is Otto.
Biggest fan: Hans Voss, executive director, Groundwork. “Jim’s infectious energy, his solutions-oriented mindset, and his passion for connecting with people and bettering the place he calls home all come together to make him an inspirational and shining bright light for Groundwork and this community. His future is limitless and I just can’t wait to see what he accomplishes next.”
President, TentCraft, 37
Organizations actively involved in: TC Connect; Young Presidents’ Organization; Front Street Irregulars; TC New Tech.
Highlight from last year: Successfully implementing the TentCraft ‘Babies in the Workplace’ program. New moms (and dads) can bring their infants to work with them until the babies are eight months old or can crawl, whichever comes first. It has just been such a nice part of our culture to have a bunch of little babies in meetings and in the office. It helps the parents and it is fun for everyone else.
Local person who inspires me professionally: Ty and Johanna Schmidt with Norte Youth Cycling. They are basically uber-productive energizer bunnies, and they amaze me with all the programs they have launched for local kids. Traverse City is a better place to live because of their efforts.
My next big thing: We are aggressively growing our manufacturing capabilities and staff. Our goal is to be completely vertically integrated and to eventually make everything we sell (like R.M. Young, another awesome local manufacturer.) I am just a big believer in the resurgence of U.S. manufacturing – particularly for items where speed and quality are paramount – and it has been really gratifying to see re-shoring working for us and other local companies.
Who knew: As a member of the Virginia Army National Guard during college, I spent a year on active duty at the U.S. Military Prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Interim CEO, Grand Traverse Band, LLC, 32
Highlight from last year: Completed construction on affordable housing units for the Little River Band in Manistee; spoke in a workplace readiness panel discussion for Grand Valley students; appointed interim CEO of Grand Traverse Band, LLC.
Local person who inspires me professionally: Laura Galbraith, Venture North Funding and Development. Laura has been a great support for our company since the earliest days. She has a great talent for connecting people and connecting people to resources.
My next big thing: Carry through on my personal goal to learn and use my native language!
Regional Manager, The Private Bank at Huntington National Bank, 38
Organizations actively involved in: Grand Traverse County Economic Development Corporation, chairman; Startology, executive committee; Front Street Irregulars, steering committee; Goodwill Industries of Northern Michigan, treasurer; Rotary Charities, finance & investment committee; City of Traverse City, Local Officers Compensation Committee.
Highlight from last year: Awarded promotion at Huntington to private bank regional manager overseeing investment management, private banking and trust administration across northern Michigan. Named chairman of newly revamped Grand Traverse County Economic Development Corporation.
Local person who inspires me professionally: John Pelizzari, chief operating officer of Burnette Foods Inc. and former chairman of the board of Northwestern Bancorp Inc. John is an incredible strategic thinker, has comprehensive business and financial knowledge, and sets an impressive example for community involvement. His hard work, broad network, and impressive skills have led to significant leadership roles in regional banking, a successful transition into a new industry, and huge community impact throughout his career.
My next big thing: I am focused on formalizing collaboration between several local economic, business, and nonprofit initiatives to produce a coordinated region-wide economic development strategy. The private sector is coming together around a coordinated tech and advanced industry ecosystem encompassing tech, manufacturing and agriculture businesses, a business incubator, coordinated educational programming, and angel investor funding – all geared toward strengthening and growing high-value businesses in the Grand Traverse area.
Who knew: I lived in Rome, Italy for grad school, where I was very fortunate (and extremely lucky) to meet my wife, Marina.
Executive Director, The Watershed Center Grand Traverse City, 38
Organizations actively involved in: Green Elk Rapids; Traverse City Young Professionals; International Association of Great Lakes Research; Elk-Skegemog Lakes Association.
Highlight from last year: Creating The Swim for Grand Traverse Bay fundraiser from scratch was a personal and professional accomplishment. We are in the unique position of advocating to protect and preserve something nearly everyone values in our community: Grand Traverse Bay. The swim was our way of getting people to experience the water in a fresh, new way – through a two-mile swim in it.
Local person who inspires me professionally: It’s not so much a single person who inspires me, but more a cohort of young, professional women who are making an impact in our community and who also have a young family. Women such as Leah Bagdon McCallum, northern Michigan regional director for Senator Gary Peters; Allison Beers, owner of Events North & Put Your Phone Down!; and Ashlea Walter, marketing manager at Traverse City State Bank inspire me and show me what’s possible.
My next big thing: 2018 marks the 15th year The Watershed Center has been working to get Kids Creek delisted from the State of Michigan’s Impaired Waters List. Stay tuned for ways to get involved and celebrate this unique urban stream in the heart of Traverse City.
Who knew: I was born at a research station in Alberta, Canada and lived there while my father pursued his Ph.D. in fisheries.
Deputy County Administrator, Grand Traverse County, 38
Organizations actively involved in: County services, programs, and special projects interact with many public, non-profit, and private sector institutions. The partnerships formed between these entities is essential to addressing the complex needs of a community, balancing resources and capitalizing on various skills and talents throughout the community.
Highlight from last year: Working to create awareness of the county’s financial and organizational challenges has been the focus of the last year. We’ve brought attention to its unfunded pension debt and developed the Pension Stabilization Plan, which sets a path for financial stability in the years to come. We’ve also highlighted major challenges in our technology that limit the organization’s ability to analyze data and securely share information between departments and agencies.
Local person who inspires me professionally: Having the opportunity to work with Tom Menzel, county administrator at Grand Traverse County, has been an honor. His commitment to this community and willingness to take on the tough issues upholds the values that I have as a public servant and steward of tax dollars. Together we have worked to identify solutions and to implement them through sound business practices and rational decision-making. We’ve challenged the status quo, which requires true leadership that is willing to do what is right even in light of significant opposition within the organization.
My next big thing: I have a strong interest in continuing to grow partnerships between the public, non-profit, and the private sectors that will support regional dialogue and action about issues which are not constrained by municipal boundaries, even though our bureaucratic policies work to constrain them. Through growing these partnerships we can leverage the knowledge and resources of the all three sectors to strengthen our communities. I look forward to participating in those conversations and to creating new opportunities for action.
Who knew: I love to fish and I am a vegetarian!
Freelance Interior Designer/Kitchen and Bath Designer, 27
Organizations actively involved in: National Kitchen and Bath Association; Home Builders Association of the Grand Traverse Area; Professional Women in Building of Grand Traverse Area, secretary; Girls on the Run, coach.
Highlight from last year: Being selected out of hundreds of nominations to be part of the National Kitchen and Bath Association’s 30 Under 30 program for 2017 (recognizing outstanding professionals in the industry under the age of 30.) And getting engaged in January!
Local people who inspire me professionally: Todd and Carol Brown. They are new to the area and past clients of mine. They have raised awareness through the Hope Water Project, an organization focused on providing clean water to the Pokot Tribe in Kenya. This year they are raising money through the Sleeping Bear Dunes Races in October — be sure to watch for the Hope Water Project jerseys!
My next big thing: Looking forward to taking my design talents and my passion for health and sustainable living to the next level — by inspiring the community to make better design choices that will impact their health. I think design and health go hand in hand. On a personal level, looking forward to getting married in February and beating my personal record in the M22 Challenge this spring!
Who knew: When I am not designing, I am a major fitness and health guru. Love spending time on my SUP with my dog, hiking, biking, snowshoeing, and cooking and baking experiments to make them more nutritional and healthy. I also compete in a lot of local race events, including the M22 Challenge, The Zombie Run 5K and the Cherry Festival of Races.
Realtor, Century 21 Northland, 36
Organizations actively involved in: Traverse Area Association of Realtors (TAAR); Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce; Traverse City Young Professionals; USA Hockey; Traverse City Curling Club.
Highlight from last year: Definitely serving as the president of TAAR. This position has given me the opportunity to meet and learn from some of the best our industry has to offer.
Local person who inspires me professionally: Kim Pontius, the CEO of TAAR. He has been an amazing leader of our organization and has consistently kept TAAR on the cutting edge of our industry. He is the perfect example of a lifetime learner and is always striving for ways to take our membership to the next level. We are extremely lucky to have him.
My next big thing: I am hoping to become more involved locally with our affordable housing situation.
Who knew: I am an official in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association and get to travel around the region in the winter skating in college hockey games.
President/Founder, Inhabitect, LLC, 38
Organizations actively involved in: Green Roofs for Healthy Cities; Builders Exchange of Northern Michigan; Home Builders Association of the Grand Traverse Area.
Highlight from last year: Overseeing and managing the expansion of the services Inhabitect offers. While known for designing, building and growing rooftop gardens, we have started to ‘come off the roof’ – offering clients assistance with traditional landscape design and construction services along with other forms of green infrastructure. This move has helped the company expand in numerous ways … including the number of full-time employees on the payroll!
Local person who inspires me professionally: I always enjoy speaking with Bill Palladino from Taste the Local Difference. One of my main reasons for being a boomerang entrepreneur and coming back to Traverse City was to be closer to the community that I called home, and help create a greener place for us to live. Bill’s passion for community, his life experiences, his advice to those in need and his gift for bringing people together is inspiring.
My next big thing: To continue to develop and expand the products and services that Inhabitect offers northern Michigan. Inhabitect will be looking to embrace our motto of ‘Designing, Building and Growing’ by bringing on and collaborating with professional designers (architects, landscape architects, planners and engineers), builders and construction crews as well as experts in horticulture and ecology.
Who knew: There is something about the quality and craftsmanship that went into ‘old stuff’ that is not often seen today that draws me to it. Some might consider these items as junk but I see some pieces as works of art, a window into our past, and I enjoy learning about how the items were built and how they were utilized in years gone by.
Michigan’s Community Development Specialist, U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development (USA-RD), 32
Organizations actively involved in: Garfield Township Parks and Recreation Commission, vice chair; Traverse City Film Festival, Old Town Playhouse venue manager; Traverse City Young Professionals’ Volunteer Task Force, member, former co-chair; UpNorth Media Center, content producer; City of Traverse City election inspector, chairperson Precinct #1.
Highlight from last year: Two different year-long regional economic development planning processes culminated in nationally recognized ‘High Quality Plans,’ and a third regional planning process began this year. The Frankfort Powering Rural Investment by Mapping Energy project was recently highlighted in a panel discussion at the Michigan Clean Energy Conference and Fair that considered the duplication or expansion of existing projects over reinvention. I also spent about 10 months this past year as the interim public affairs director for USDA-RD in Michigan.
Local person who inspires me professionally: My dad is a mechanic by trade, a landlord by choice and a pianist by passion. He has worked hard throughout his life but also showed me the importance of balance. Growing up, Saturdays were for working hard, but Sunday mornings we would usually wake up to him playing music or to the smell of pancakes. He never really had ‘spare’ time, but he always seemed to manufacture time to spend with us. We shared so many great days working on cars and going to open houses, things that most people would consider work, but that my dad made interesting and fun. He is the one who inspires me to have balance among learning, working and creating.
My next big thing: I have been appointed as the statewide broadband coordinator for USDA-RD. Having dabbled in this industry in the past, I am looking forward to learning more and helping rural communities gain and/or improve their broadband access. This important economic development tool will be instrumental in keeping rural communities competitive in the increasingly global marketplace.
Who knew: I am a chronic volunteer and have been on multiple trips in the U.S. and abroad specifically to volunteer.
Sales Executive for Northern Michigan, Priority Health, 32
Organizations actively involved in: Traverse City Young Professionals (TCYP), chair; Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce board of directors and leadership committee.
Highlight from last year: Along with others from the chamber, I have established a TCYP executive committee that will be responsible for continuing the great momentum and value our TCYP program has provided and achieved in recent years. This committee will be critical to succession planning and offering new leadership opportunities for young professionals in northern Michigan.
My next big thing: My husband and I are expecting our second child this fall!
Who knew: I have a serious addiction to the TV show The Profit on CNBC.
Biggest fan: Max Anderson, Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce executive director. “Lauren is a treasure in our community. She has worked tirelessly to help build the Chamber’s TCYP program into one of the most respected professional organizations in northern Michigan. She also helps our region by providing jobs with her family business Epic Powersports. Her vision and ability to identify needs and deliver value are unmatched. She is the true consummate young professional and our community would be lucky to have more people like her.”
Member Relations Manager, Cherryland Electric Cooperative, 37
Organizations actively involved in: Northwestern Michigan College (NMC), trustee; Impact 100 TC; Networks Northwest board member; Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce; Zonta Club of Traverse City; Munson Manor; Mid-Michigan Honor Flight.
Highlight from last year: I was incredibly honored to be appointed to the NMC board of trustees in November. And this spring, I began teaching executives from electric co-ops across the country about how co-ops can improve their communications programs through the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association’s Management Training Program.
Local person who inspires me professionally: This past year we lost an irreplaceable community member when Rick Deneweth, co-owner at Cornillie Concrete, passed away. I had the privilege of working with him through Cherryland and Mid-Michigan Honor Flight. He believed deeply in our community and in helping local businesses succeed. He freely gave his time and talents toward that end. His legacy is one to which we should all aspire and I am very lucky I had the chance to know and learn from him.
My next big thing: Cherryland is piloting a low-income renewable energy and energy efficiency program in partnership with the Michigan Agency for Energy and Northwest Michigan Community Action Agency for families living at or below the poverty level in Cherryland’s service territory. The low-income group often gets left behind when it comes to renewables and energy efficiency because their situation is more complex than the rest of our population. I am hopeful that we are starting a program here that might be replicated at other utilities across the state.
Who knew: When I was about 10, I experienced a freak microphone accident while lip synching to Michael Jackson. I ended up with a broken tooth and split lip but the real tragedy was the end of my short-lived career as an M.J. impersonator.
Co-owner, Sweet Pea; owner, Hickory Corners, 37
Organizations actively involved in: Traverse City Downtown Development Authority (DDA); Carmelite Monastery; Grand Traverse Area Catholic Schools.
Highlight from last year: Opened a second Sweet Pea location in the Grand Traverse Women’s Clinic. Sweet Pea was one of the largest independent retailers for Tea Collection in the U.S. and was one of the top performing retailers for this children’s wear line in the U.S. for four years running. With the assistance of Adam and Chad Miller of Miller Investments, I transformed Hickory Corners into a thriving retail location by improving the buildings’ overall aesthetics through consistent and long term tenants. Joined the Farmer’s Market Advisory Committee this year as a DDA board member.
Local person who inspires me professionally: Realtor Ken Kleinrichert Sr. I’ve known Ken for more than 20 years. I seek his advice and counsel consistently because of his experience and his brutal honesty. He’s still working and getting deals done. I also admire his dedication to his family and his service to this community.
My next big thing: I recently purchased property in Leelanau County. It’s currently a blank canvas to me and the possibilities are endless.
Who knew: I grew up in my parent’s retail store in downtown Traverse City and used to shovel and sweep other retailers’ sidewalks for cash.
Northern Michigan Regional Coordinator, Michigan League of Conservation Voters, 32 (note: As of publication, Keller is the Northern Michigan Regional Director for U.S. Senator Gary Peters)
Organizations actively involved in: Watershed Center of Grand Traverse Bay, board member; United Way of Northwest Michigan; Grand Traverse County Democratic Party, executive board member; Glenn Loomis Parent Teacher Organization; Great Lakes Business Network.
Highlight from last year: The opportunity to assist in passing an energy bill package in Michigan that increases the state’s renewable energy and energy efficiency standards. I think that my proudest moment came while I was standing on stage at the Open Space on a cold day in April in front of 2,000 people from across northern Michigan who turned out for the solutions-oriented People’s Climate March.
Local person who inspires me professionally: Sally Van Vleck always impresses me with her dedication to the community and I admire her immensely. In addition to owning and operating the Neahtawanta Inn Bed and Breakfast, she is deeply involved in her work with the Neahtawanta Research and Education Center and inspires me to work more strategically and passionately in all that I do.
My next big thing: I am working on a few big things right now. One of them entails building a new model for engagement through networking. It will focus on bringing together community leaders to address local, statewide and national issues to create tangible results and bring new opportunities and investments right here in northern Michigan. More to come!
Who knew: I’m a twin. So, the next time you see me around town you may have to make sure it’s actually me before you strike up a conversation.
Owner, Image360, 38
Organizations actively involved in: Rotary of Traverse City; Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce.
Highlight from last year: Named the 2017 Hagerty Small Business of the Year and a Top 50 Michigan Company to Watch. The cherry on top was celebrating 10 years of marriage with my wife, Amy.
Local person who inspires me professionally: Technically two people, as they’re a true team – Mike and Denise Busley, owners of Grand Traverse Pie Company. They are amazing people – very active in our community, give back a lot, creative, insightful and run a very impressive business. Also, they’re genuinely nice people who care about others.
My next big thing: Still working on the expansion that was announced last year! This expansion will triple our production space and allow for continued investment in our team and equipment.
Who knew: I was surprised to have Tim Allen stop by unannounced to have a sign made for a business in Northport. It was a fun experience.
Farmer and Marketer, LaCross Farms and Leelanau Fruit Company, 38
Organizations: Michigan Farm Bureau, board of directors; Farm Bureau Insurance board of directors; Michigan Cherry Committee; Michigan Association of Cherry Producers board; Leelanau Horticultural Society; Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce Young Professionals; youth baseball and basketball coach; Governor Rick Snyder’s 21st Century Infrastructure Commission.
Highlight from last year: In October 2016, I was chosen as a McCloy Fellow for Agriculture. The McCloy Foundation was formed after World War II to develop better relations with Germany. Americans visit Germany in even years to learn and discuss agricultural policy, and in odd years, Germans visit America. This year, the McCloy Fellows included a cattle rancher from South Dakota, a veterinarian from Idaho, a college ag professor from Nebraska, and me, a cherry farmer from Michigan. We spent several days in Berlin meeting with members of the German Bundestag (parliament), agricultural ministries and farmer groups before traveling throughout the northern parts of Germany, touring livestock farms, bioenergy facilities, manufacturing facilities, and wineries.
My next big thing: I plan to keep working on common sense solutions that address immigration and the agricultural workforce in our country. I’ve been traveling to Washington, D.C., for more than a decade, working with our elected officials and bureaucrats to address this issue, and we are no closer to solving it than we were back in 2006. Farmers need workers to pick our crops, consumers need abundant food, and Congress needs to do its job – pass comprehensive immigration reform.
Who knew: I’ve ridden in an elevator with Bill Gates. I was in Washington, D.C. in 2011 in the Rayburn House Office Building, and we shared a ride up a couple flights.
Biggest fan: Governor Rick Snyder. “As an outstanding leader and ambassador of northern Michigan and the agricultural community, it was my privilege to name Ben as one of the 15 gubernatorial appointees to Michigan’s 21st Century Infrastructure Commission. Ben is a skilled businessman who is active in his local agricultural community, helps run his family business and farm, and is proving to be a leader at the local, state and national levels.”
Director of Community Development, Networks Northwest, 39
Organizations actively involved in: Michigan Association of Planning, board member; Homestretch, board member, Fair Housing Center of West Michigan, board member.
Highlight from last year: We held a Housing Summit in October, and it’s triggered a lot of community action. Regional stakeholders from different sectors have come together to explore solutions. Conversations that began at the Summit built a growing knowledge base and consensus about what we need as a region. Also, we’ve been working with communities and human service professionals to identify links between community development and the big social issues that we’re facing – such as addiction, child welfare, and personal and public health.
Local person who inspires me professionally: I can’t pick just one! I’ve learned so much in working with Grand Traverse County’s planning department. John Sych, the planning and development director, has a measured, pragmatic, respectful approach that gets things done and builds consensus without drama or fanfare. And I’ve always admired Jean Derenzy, director of community development, for her determination, resourcefulness, tireless work ethic, and genuine passion for the work that she does for the community.
My next big thing: We have another Housing Summit planned for October 16! I’m continuing to work with partners region-wide on addressing systemic and structural issues that are contributing to our housing issues, through the organization of a housing partnership that will add capacity and connect resources for developers, housing organizations and communities.
Who knew: I love shopping secondhand for clothes, furniture, books … you never know what you’re going to find. I especially love used bookstores – once I walk into one, it’s hard for me to leave.
Finance Director, Grand Traverse County, 34
Organizations actively involved in: Impact 100 Traverse City, finance chair; MSU Center for Local Government Finance and Policy Advisory Council; Michigan Government Finance Officers Association.
Highlight from last year: Since joining the county’s leadership team in July 2016 we’ve accomplished a lot, from adopting a structurally balanced 2017 budget to successfully negotiating an extension agreement for the county’s pension plan. All our efforts have been to stabilize annual expenses while improving the long-term financial sustainability of the organization. The board of commissioners voted to support a number of the components of the Pension Stabilization Plan we proposed. The county’s 2016 financial audit was completed with a clean, or unmodified, opinion.
Local person who inspires me professionally: I am incredibly fortunate to have been welcomed to the community by many local leaders from a variety of organizations. It’s hard to choose one from among them, but working for Tom Menzel, the county administrator, has been an incredible experience. His business acumen and dedication to each of the local organizations he has served in Traverse City is inspiring. His positive, balanced attitude and big-picture thinking has pushed the county to think outside of the box as it works to address its unfunded legacy costs and evolve as an organization.
My next big thing: The 2018 budget preparation is now currently underway. With the pension payment agreement requiring annual contributions of $5.9 million and healthcare costs projected to increase 11.2 percent, we will continue to seek new ways to respond to increasing costs and relatively stagnant revenue growth. One top priority over the next year is to lead a conversion from our home-grown financial software to a new enterprise resource planning system. It will be a lengthy process, but the organization and taxpayer will see returns on investment through increased efficiencies and accountability.
Who knew: I spun the wheel on air with Pat Sajak and Vanna White as a Wheel of Fortune contestant.
City Clerk, Traverse City, 37
Organizations actively involved in: Michigan State University College of Medicine; Rotary Charities of Traverse City and Rotary Club of Traverse City; United Way of Northwest Michigan; Junior Achievement
Highlight from last year: Being selected by my peers from across the state of Michigan as the 2017 Michigan City Clerk of the Year. Although I really think it should be ‘City Clerk’s Office of the Year,’ because it takes the whole team. I was also one of 70 people from across the globe admitted into the June 2017 Senior Executives in State and Local Government program at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University in Cambridge, MA. I got to learn from the brightest minds across an impressive spectrum of disciplines, alongside classmates who are deeply dedicated to bringing their best to their work.
My next big thing: I’m working on it. The program at Harvard has me putting together some very specific plans, but it’s all too rough right now to share.
Who knew: I love dancing with the elderly. Seriously, any chance I get, I love to share a dance, and hopefully a smile, with the most life-experienced among us, and I like to learn as much as I can about their story.
Biggest fan: Marty Colburn, Traverse City city manager. “Benjamin Marentette stands as a leader of young professionals in and around the Traverse City region. He demonstrates his commitment to the city and holding the highest performance standards to public service. This is why the city continues to invest in him by encouraging his most recent participation at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. We trust that providing professional opportunities and development, that we are investing into the high standards of performance towards continuing to make Traverse City a world class city.”
Director of Community Capacity, Rotary Charities of Traverse City, 35
Organizations actively involved in: Traverse City Downtown Development Authority; Munson Medical Center.
Highlight from last year: For the past two years, I had the privilege of working for U.S. Senator Gary Peters. Through that work, and perhaps as an outcome of the 2016 election, I became extra fired up about empowering everybody to play a role in operating his or her community. From a parent teacher organization seat, to neighborhood associations, to a county commission – every movement and backyard needs advocates.
Local person who inspires me professionally: Marsha Smith, executive director of Rotary Charities. She’s equal parts drive, wit and heart. When she’s giving me feedback, I appreciate the way she shares stories about the people she loves. She does it in a way that lets me know that I’m not alone; that sometimes, stuff’s challenging; and that there is almost always a way to have fun during any journey.
My next big thing: In July, I accepted my dream job with Rotary Charities. In this role, I will be doing a lot of listening to people and families from our five-county region. Based on what I hear, I will help folks tap resources that can make life better in the place they call home. I am elated to be on this team, doing this work.
Who knew: Catsup is sick. Mustard is king. Pickles are where it’s at.
CEO, Owner, Oneupweb, 36
Organizations actively involved in: National Writer’s Series, board member; Northwest Michigan Health Services, board member; UpNorth Pride.
Highlight from last year: In the past year we’ve designed and developed more websites then we had in the previous two years. It’s a testament to all of our colleagues at our company, because our new approach mines input from each department to inform how we design and develop each website.
Local person who inspires me professionally: Casey Cowell, co-founder of U.S. Robotics. He’s a heavyweight in technology and I’ve been privileged to have access to him. He has taught me that service to one’s community is just as important as one’s individual success.
My next big thing: We’re in the early stages of creating a new digital marketing division at Oneupweb that can work directly with franchisee business owners. It’s a big idea because onboarding one new client is essentially onboarding 150 clients at one time. Which, as you can imagine, can bring about its own challenges, let alone executing local digital marketing strategies. Given our experience in the national franchise arena, we feel uniquely positioned to be able to successfully launch this new division.
Who knew: English was my second language. I learned how to speak English by watching Sesame Street.
Founder, MacUpdate, 38
Organizations actively involved in: 1-on-1’s with startup founders and business owners, Front Street Irregulars.
Highlight from last year: My wife Lauren and I are pregnant with our first girl. We sold our condo at 101 N. Park and bought a home on beautiful Sixth Street downtown. I’ve been rehabbing my shoulder post-surgery, hoping to join everyone who loves to play sports, enjoy the outdoors and stay physically fit. Investments in commercial real estate and stocks have skyrocketed by almost silly multiples. I’ve witnessed the MacUpdate team become more independent, skilled and impactful. But mostly, I appreciate the time I’m allowed to spend with others in this great community we live in!
Local person who inspires me professionally: Jenny Drake is one of the best physical therapists in Northern Michigan, who at a young age decided to take the risk and become an entrepreneur with her own practice. Jenny has a unique hands-on practice and she’s knows the human body inside and out. However, it’s not her knowledge of the physical world that inspires me, it’s the culture she carries and how she impacts the people around her. She taught me this: Being overly nice to someone and pouring our your appreciation and joy toward them doesn’t take anything away from you, so why wouldn’t you choose to do it every day? She inspires me to chill out, laugh and have more fun with the people around me.
My next big thing: Our daughter will hopefully be born this December, so my next big thing is figuring out how to use my sleep deprivation skills toward raising our first child. Oh, and if you have any good name suggestions, send ’em my way!
Who knew: Four friends and I stand up paddle boarded across Lake Michigan two summers ago. While the group raised money for a freshwater non-profit, I did it simply to deepen the friendships I had with this group. Three of the paddlers just crossed Lake Huron this past summer as well, and continue to tell stories to build awareness about issues surrounding what some people consider the most valuable fresh water resource in the world.
Biggest fan: Marta Turnbull, co-founder, Up North Pride. “Startup and tech culture is full of clichés and is usually over-romanticized. Being a founder is hard, uncertain, often lonely work, and J has been doing it for over 20 years, coming of age and maturity along with his companies. Luckily for us, he is proactive in investing his experience back into our community. J is rational without losing his passion, endlessly humble, firm in his convictions, and forever asking questions and challenging static thought. He deeply values the human element, always lifting up others and empowering those around him to be the hero in their own story line.”
Partner, North Coast Legal, PLC, 38
Organizations Actively Involved In: Grand Traverse Economic Development Corporation (GTEDC), treasurer; TC New Tech, treasurer; GTLA Bar Association, president-elect; Utopia Foundation, vice president; Criminal Defense Attorneys of Michigan, board member
Highlight from last year: Joined a partnership with H. Douglas Shepherd IV at North Coast Legal; appointed to six-year term on Grand Traverse Economic Development Corporation; the explosive growth of TC New Tech; serving on the TC New Tech fiber subcommittee to encourage residential fiber connectivity in Grand Traverse County.
Local person who inspires me professionally: Jean Derenzy inspires me constantly. She is focused and dedicated to the responsible growth and economic development of Grand Traverse County. She is the personification of professionalism and has an intensely pragmatic approach to the matters we face on the GTEDC. I’m extremely lucky to have met her, to work with her and to learn from her.
My next big thing: The bigger picture on economic development in Traverse City, Grand Traverse county and the northwest Michigan region is coming into focus. The explosive growth of TC New Tech, the creation of the Startology incubator, the evolution of the entrepreneur community and the reboot of the county economic development corporation are all helping to usher in this evolution. I’m very fortunate and humbled to be a part of these entities.
Who knew: During law school, I spent a semester abroad in Russia and gave a presentation on human rights that was picked up by the local news in Yoshkar Ola, Russia.
Biggest fan: Russell Schindler, TC New Tech. “Mike’s enthusiasm for helping this community is exceptional and contagious. Mike’s sense of humor, personality and talent makes working on various community initiative projects enjoyable and productive. This community is lucky to have him as a member.”
Executive Director, National Cherry Festival, 35
Organizations actively involved in: Rotary Club of Traverse City; Impact 100 Traverse City; Northwest Michigan College barbecue committee.
Highlight from last year: Survival! The biggest professional moment in the past 12 months was becoming the executive director of the National Cherry Festival.
Local person who inspires me professionally: Connor Miller, volunteer extraordinaire. Connor continually amazes me with his positive attitude and willingness to give back. He has always done well professionally, but his community spirit is what is so inspiring.
My next big thing: So many ideas to list! One big plan is to bring back the Cherryland Band Classic in 2018 at the National Cherry Festival to inspire the young and young at heart.
Who knew: I own nine pairs of red shoes, five red jackets, red pants, shorts and capri pants. I also have an entire cherry-themed kitchen. This was all before I worked at the Cherry Festival.
Operations Director, Taste the Local Difference, 29
Organizations actively involved in: Bay Area Recycling for Charities, board secretary; Sara Hardy Farmers Market, advisory board secretary; Traverse City Film Festival, food acquisitions manager; Northwest Michigan Food & Farming Network, local food sales task force leader.
Highlight from last year: Taste the Local Difference has been growing its products, service area and staff. Since August of 2016 we’ve grown from two staff members in Traverse City to nine staff members located across the state. One of the biggest additions to our services has been the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Worksite Wellness Program at local northern Michigan employers. In its first year, we’ve matched four local CSA farms to five different employers and signed up 99 new CSA shareholders. This alone has contributed over $49,000 directly to local farms and gives the employees from participating work sites easy access to fresh, healthy local food.
My next big thing: My mentor and boss Bill Palladino will be transitioning away from Taste the Local Difference in this next year. I’ll be taking over the reins from him and I’m really excited to be leading it into the future.
Who knew: I own a hop farm with my partner Alex Adams in Cedar, built and planted in 2016. The hops are a unique Japanese variety called Sorachi Ace.
Biggest fan: Andy Gale, founder, Bay Area Recycling for Charities (BARC). “Tricia is one of the most outstanding people that I know! She has been a babysitter for my children (years ago), a secretary for the BARC organization currently, and one of the smartest/hardest workers that I know. She works tirelessly for whatever cause, project, organization, company that she is involved in. She always gets the job done right, on time, and with a smile. Traverse City, our region, and any person who has the pleasure to cross Tricia Phelps’ path is better off because of it.
Principal/Founder of Northern Strategies 360, 36
Organizations actively involved in: State of Michigan Port Authority Advisory committee, gubernatorial appointed member; Cherryland Electric Cooperative board, director; Traverse City Downtown Development Authority, treasurer; Adams Chapter of Trout Unlimited, vice president; TART Trails, trail ambassador; Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce government relations committee.
Highlight from last year: Northern Strategies 360 continues to advocate on behalf of the Munson Healthcare system, including success with state budget rural healthcare priorities. We advocated for Northwestern Michigan College, which successfully got the final approval for their $14 million 21st Century Innovation Center project. Northern Strategies 360 has also begun a new engagement with Venture North and the Great Start Collaborative Traverse Bay to support policy changes that help to reduce the cost and increase the availability of infant and toddler care in the region. New opportunities that I am proud of this year include being named to the Governor Rick Snyder’s Port Authority Advisory Committee and the Cherryland Electric Cooperative board of directors.
Local person who inspires me professionally: David Mengebier, who was recently named CEO of the Grand Traverse Regional Community Foundation. He inspires me professionally through his ability to continue to tackle and accomplish professional goals while at the same time maintaining a work/life balance that allows him to complete running races, rip single track mountain bike trails, fly fish, ski and climb mountains.
My next big thing: Continue to grow Northern Strategies 360 and perfect my skim boarding. Who knew it could be so difficult (skim boarding that is!)
Who knew: Thanks to the fitness app Strava, I know that so far this year, I have mountain biked 355 miles with more than 11,400 feet of elevation gain and have run 53 miles.
Brewer and Co-owner, Rare Bird Brewpub, 31
Organizations actively involved in: Pour For More, founder and president; Big Brothers Big Sisters; Up North Pride; SNAP Nutrition Education volunteer for Traverse Bay Area Intermediate School District; Boardman River Clean Sweep.
Highlight from last year: My proudest professional moment was definitely creating a new nonprofit, Pour For More. It allows local craft beverage establishments to easily give back to our community every single day.
My next big thing: I’m currently doubling the capacity of the brew house at Rare Bird, which is very exciting. It will allow for a lot more Rare Bird beer on tap and make my life easier at the same time, so it’s a win-win!
Who knew: I thought I was going to be a ethnobotanist and find the cure for cancer with plants before I got into brewing as a profession. I helped start the ethnobotany program at University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point with my professor and mentor, Dr. Virginia Freire.
Biggest fan: Amy Schuett, wife. “Tina strives to create an inclusive space for our community to gather. She’s always brewing up some idea on how to make the world a better place.”
Vice president of Finance and Treasurer, Hagerty, 36
Organizations actively involved in: The Children’s House, board of directors and finance committee member; work with Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce and Venture North through their long-standing partnership with Hagerty.
Highlight from last year: I was part of a Hagerty team responsible for launching a new reinsurance entity. Helping to create a new entity that will generate significant revenue and profit is very transformative and exciting. Also started executing on many treasury initiatives that will increase efficiency and data automation throughout the business on our path to provide “best in class” treasury operations.
Local person who inspires me professionally: My wife, Jen Seman, senior manager, sales and client services at Priority Health. I admire her ability to balance work with being the best mother to our two beautiful daughters, Ashley and Olivia. Not only has she inspired me to be a great father, she has helped me become a better leader and manager in the workplace. Jen’s knowledge and experience in both management and human resources has provided me with valuable insights over the years.
My next big thing: After the birth of our second child, it’s time for me to stop making excuses and hit the gym again. We are fortunate to live in a town with such wonderful lakes and resources. I plan to get outdoors more and run.
Who knew: My grandfather, Robert James Earl, was related to Harley Earl (influential head of design at General Motors, most notably for the Chevy Corvette.) For me, working at Hagerty has deepened my appreciation for my family and my heritage.
Book Awards Coordinator/Festival Director at Jenkins Group; Traverse City Commissioner, 37
Organizations actively involved in: Traverse City Children’s Book Festival; Traverse City Light & Power Board; Traverse City Arts Commission; American Association of University Women (AAUW) –Traverse City; AAUW of Michigan; Friends of Traverse Area District Library; Born to Read Partners Board; Film Strip Festival.
Highlight from last year: In October, the Traverse City Branch of AAUW brought the state’s annual leadership conference to Traverse City. We were able to put together panels of local leaders and show off the dynamic people who are shaping Traverse City. We will again bring people together with inspirational leaders at this fall’s LeadHERship Workshop.
My next big thing: As a member of the Light & Power Board and as ad hoc chair, I am part of a group working on bringing Fiber to the Premises (FTTP) through Light & Power. We are keeping up the momentum with this project and I think it will bring great opportunities to our area.
Who knew: I started a Michigan State University study abroad program to Krakow, Poland while a student there because they did not have any in Poland at the time. The program continued for years after I graduated.
Biggest fan: Leah Nicholson, production and editorial director, the Jenkins Group. “I admire Amy’s thoughtfulness on local issues. She carefully considers feedback, does her research, and then forms an opinion to work toward a solution. Her opinions are always well-formed, balanced and knowledgeable.”
Behavioral Health Manager, Traverse Health Clinic, 39
Organizations actively involved in: Traverse City Area Public Schools, digital media advisory committee; Addiction Treatment Services, board member; Grand Traverse Guns N Hoses, secretary; National Association of Social Workers – Michigan, executive board member; Traverse City Young Professionals; Criminal Justice Policy Commission as the mental health professionals representative (three-year appointment by Governor Rick Snyder).
Highlight reel from last year: Reducing barriers to accessing behavioral health care by expanding services at the Traverse Health Clinic. Helping Grand Traverse Guns N Hoses put on the fourth annual benefit hockey game, in which more than $13,000 was raised for a local family in need. Invited as an alumna and adjunct faculty member to be the keynote speaker at Grand Valley State University’s commencement ceremony for the Traverse City regional campus.
Local person who inspires me professionally: It’s hard to pick just one! I’m really inspired by the positive energy from both Benjamin Marentette [city clerk, Traverse City] and Sakura Raftery [director of business enterprise at Goodwill Industries of Northern Michigan]. They are genuine, approachable and forward-thinking.
My next big thing: Recent community needs assessments rank access to behavior health services as being a key health issue. I plan to keep addressing that issue at the clinic, specifically by adding group therapy and psychiatry in the next year. I’m looking forward to continued participation in committee work led by Networks Northwest to bring local government and local human services agencies together to address community health, safety, and welfare.
Who knew: During high school, I worked at a body armor company in Central Lake. I sewed test swatches and helped with the annual pin shoot. It was a unique and fun work experience!
Vice-President Commercial Lending, 4Front Credit Union, 34
Organizations actively involved in: Homestretch; Kiwanis; Junior Achievement; LEAP.
Highlight from last year: Provided more than $15 million in financing for Michigan businesses in the last 12 months. Helped establish credible commercial banking group within 4Front Credit Union. Helped get Depot Neighborhood project for Homestretch underway and through the construction process of phase one. Coached two kids’ basketball teams and volunteered for three Junior Achievement classes.
Local person who inspires me professionally: Jean Derenzy, Grand Traverse County director of community development. Her depth of knowledge related to economic incentives for business is unparalleled, and her sincere desire to make the place she lives a better place shows in her dedication to the people she works with and projects she works on. She has a unique ability to connect people and to connect the dots in finding ways for businesses and the community to be stronger.
My next big thing: Continue to grow the credit union’s expertise in commercial banking. I’m working on a few side projects that are in the very early stages. The biggest thing upcoming is my eldest daughter enters middle school this fall and I’m enjoying being along for the ride.
Who knew: I tend to sing along with the music that plays overhead at grocery stores and many times end up belting out the words fairly loud. Usually I get weird looks, once in a long while I get a few claps. My children do not find this as funny as I do.
Vice President of Hagerty, 36
Organizations actively involved in: The Children’s House, vice chair; The Grand Traverse County Economic Development Corporation, vice chair.
Highlight from last year: Being appointed to the Grand Traverse County Economic Development Corporation (EDC).
Local person who inspires me professionally: Peg Jonkhoff, co-owner of Reynolds-Jonkhoff Funeral Home. I admire her family values, how much she has done for the Traverse City community and how she is one of the biggest ambassadors for Traverse City local businesses.
My next big thing: I look forward to working with the EDC to help grow, retain and expand businesses in GT County.
Who knew: I love The Weather Channel. In fact, I watch it everyday. I’d love to be a meteorologist and a storm chaser.
City Attorney, Traverse City, 37
Organizations actively involved in: Michigan Association of Municipal Attorneys; Grand Traverse Leelanau Antrim Bar Association; Women Lawyers Association.
Highlight from last year: I was asked to speak at the annual Public Corporations Law Section/Michigan Association of Municipal Attorneys conference about the food truck ordinance that Traverse City has developed. Our ordinance is being used as a model by other communities in the state. I was also very glad to be asked to be part of the United Way Community Action Team to help determine grant recipients this year.
Local person who inspires me professionally: Chuck Judson, attorney, businessman and downtown leader, was a big inspiration to me. Before he passed away in June, he built a career representing public entities in the community. He also dedicated himself to making Traverse City a better place through his work with the Traverse City Downtown Development Authority, our bar association, and many other groups. Chuck was always willing to share his wisdom and perspective, and I loved how he could work through a problem to find a creative solution. He inspired me to be a better lawyer and a more engaged member of the community.
My next big thing: Sometimes it’s difficult to predict what the next big thing happening in the city will be, but I’m always excited to meet the next challenge that comes through the door.
Who knew: I hiked up the highest mountain on the island of Mallorca, Spain.
Director of Marketing and Business Development, MacUpdate, 29
Organizations actively involved in: Up North Pride, co-founder, board member and officer; Pour for More, founding board member and officer; Junior Achievement; Women’s March on Washington; Planned Parenthood; ACLU; League of Women Voters; Norte!; and Michigan Blood.
Highlight from last year: Up North Pride partnered with ERRACE and Oryana to proudly integrate anti-racism into our mission. Through working closely with local government and our police department, we’ve seen systemic growth in how they engage and protect marginalized groups in northern Michigan, including an inclusive bathroom policy and a LGBTQ police liason. Pour for More’s growth since being officially established in January has been monumental as well.
Local person who inspires me professionally: My parents, Chuck and Deb Hunt. While working full time-plus jobs in the public sector and raising a family, they still spent multiple nights a week serving their church and local community. Some of my earliest memories include working alongside them doing volunteer work and advocacy. They are true civil servants and ingrained in me the need to be fully engaged in my convictions, to do whatever work is needed and to lift up those around me to do the same.
My next big thing: Scaling. There is so much momentum and support behind Up North Pride, Pour for More and MacUpdate. It’s exciting times for growth on all fronts.
Who knew: I’ve been an airbnb host for more than four years and have hosted thousands of people in my home, including more than a dozen families who have relocated to the area after staying with me. I can’t think of a better way to humanize our city and welcome our visitors than to share meals, have meaningful conversations and curate their time with us. It’s something I truly believe makes our city more vibrant, livable and inclusive.
Director of Government Relations, Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce, 33
Organizations actively involved in: Toys for Tots; Traverse City Little League.
Highlight from last year: Securing amendments and working to pass Transformational Brownfield Package in state legislature.
My next big thing: Building a policy platform for rural and small metro area housing and economic development programs and incentives. We hear complaints often about current programs not always being usable in small towns or rural areas like northern Michigan. Also, launching a Creative Chambers program through a grant with the Michigan Film and Digital Media office designed to build capacity for attracting creative industry talent to the Traverse City region. These are exciting, ever-changing times in Traverse City.
Who knew: One area where I am not a 40Under40 is eyesight. I once mistook a flying seagull for a foul ball in a youth baseball game and followed it around the diamond. I’ve had contact lenses ever since.
Biggest fan: Russ Knopp, owner, Comfort Keepers: “As chair of the chamber’s Government Relations Committee, I’ve been fortunate to work closely with Kent over the past two years. Kent uses his experience, skills and talents to bring a strategic approach to advocacy in Lansing and in Washington, D.C. I am one small business owner who is glad that Kent has my back. In the last legislative session in Lansing there was legislation moving forward to help attract businesses to Michigan. The legislation as introduced really could never be used by businesses in northern Michigan. Because of Kent’s tenacity, the legislation was changed so northern Michigan businesses could benefit from the incentives.”