40Under40 – Where Are They Now?

In honor of the 10th anniversary of the 40Under40 recognition program, the TCBN checked in with a few past winners to see what they are up to now. Here are some updates:

Linda Stephan
40 Under 40 honoree: 2010
Then: Reporter for Interlochen Public Radio
Now: Seminary student

A familiar voice to many local public radio listeners, Linda Stephan left Interlochen Public Radio in June 2015 after 10 years as a journalist and radio host. In addition, she had recently completed an interim post as the station’s assistant general manager. That decade of experience, however, prepared her particularly well for her next calling: pursuing ordination in the United Methodist Church.

“As a journalist, I mediated some of our community’s most complex conversations,” said Stephan. “I’ll keep doing that, and I’ll also listen for ways that each person’s greatest passions can meet the community’s deepest needs … a big nod to theologian Frederick Buechner here.”

Stephan is entering her second of three years at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology in Atlanta, Georgia this month. She did manage to get back to Michigan for summer, though.

“As part of my education, I was a hospital chaplain in Kalamazoo this past summer,” she added. “Those deep listening skills I learned as a reporter shifted to the bedside, where I helped people feeling vulnerable to regain hope and purpose – especially stroke and trauma victims.”
Once she finishes her education, Stephan said she intends to return to northern Michigan for good.

“My family, my home, and my community are still in the north,” she said. “Methodist pastors can move around a bit, but my plan is to keep Traverse City my permanent home.”

And thanks to her former employer, she stays up to date on what’s happening back home.

“The IPR app gets a lot of use … I catch up with local news online and tend to listen live to Classical IPR,” she said. “Sometimes that means I’m in a t-shirt listening to a sub-30s weather report … so IPR makes me a bit less homesick.”

Jason Jones
40 Under 40 honoree: 2012, 2013
Then: Director, Grand Traverse County Parks and Recreation
Now: Assistant Director of Parks & Recreation, City of Durham

Jason Jones left Grand Traverse County as head of Parks and Recreation two years ago. He and his family moved to North Carolina, where he now serves as assistant director of parks & recreation for the City of Durham. He oversees nine of the city’s 11 recreation centers, aquatics, outdoor recreation, special program/inclusion/mature adults, teen programs and departmental strategic planning.

Jones said while he and his family miss the water, they are loving life in a bigger city.

“We have great arts, food, music, and university scene … we live in the shadows of Duke University, and about 10 miles from the University of North Carolina,” Jones said.

They still have family and great friends in Traverse City, Jones added, who keep them up-to-date on some of the happenings in their former hometown, and they’ve made it back to TC for a visit once since leaving.

Brandon Darin
40 Under 40 honoree: 2011
Then: Constituent Relations Representative, Congressman Dave Camp
Now: Northern Michigan Marketing Director for Grotenhuis

After serving as a regional representative for Congressman Dave Camp, Brandon Darin went on to become the district director for Congressman Dan Benishek, M.D.

“I continued in that role until I did a complete 180 and went to work in a new field in 2013,” said Darin. “Right now I am the northern Michigan marketing director for Grotenhuis, a managing agent for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan/Blue Care Network.”

So is he still involved in politics at all? “To a very small degree,” he said. In addition to volunteering for some candidates, he’s also used his political background and connections for work with the Michigan Association of Health Underwriters, now serving as vice president of the Northern Michigan Association of Health Underwriters after a tenure as its legislative director.

“I also just recently joined a group of great citizens – Stand Up TC – in a effort to promote sound, principled, smart growth in Traverse City,” he added.

Here are what a few other former 40Under40 winners are up to:

Beth Milligan
40 Under 40 honoree: 2008, 2009
Then: Communication& Program Coordinator/ Young Professionals Coordinator, TC Area Chamber of Commerce
Now: Head Writer for The Traverse City Ticker

Erika Erickson
40 Under 40 honoree: 2011
Then: Anchor/Producer, WGTU ABC 29&8
Now: Reporter at WJBK Fox 2 Detroit

Diana Fairbanks
40 Under 40 honoree: 2010
Then: Anchor/Reporter, TV 7&4 WPBN/WTOM
Now: Executive Director of Public Relations, Marketing and Communications for Northwestern Michigan College

Phil Franzo
40 Under 40 honoree: 2011
Then: Director of Business Development, TC Area Chamber of Commerce
Now: Analytics professional, Meijer