“Top 40 Under 40” 2023 inaugural class announced by MMDC and Greater Gratiot Development, Inc.

The “Emerging Leader Awards” is a new initiative designed to celebrate and recognize young professionals under the age of 40 who have demonstrated remarkable achievements and
contributions to their communities in Clare, Gladwin, Gratiot, Isabella and Osceola counties. Middle Michigan Development Corporation (MMDC) and Greater Gratiot Development Inc. accepted nominations for the “Middle Michigan | Greater Gratiot Emerging Leader Awards” 2023 inaugural class August 28 through September 19, 2023.

“We are excited to launch the ‘Middle Michigan | Greater Gratiot Emerging Leaders Awards,’ a platform that highlights the remarkable achievements of young individuals who are making a significant impact in our communities,” said Jim McBryde, president and CEO of Middle Michigan Development Corporation. “These awards not only recognize their outstanding contributions, but also inspire others to step up and create positive change.”

Below are the Top 40 Under 40 awardees. They will be recognized at the October 13 “Middle Michigan: Coming Home” event, aimed to foster a sense of pride in the region while also connecting graduating students and returning alumni from area universities and colleges with local employers.

Clare County Awardees

Justin Cavanaugh, 31 City of Harrison City Manager & Clerk

Leadership: I've led as City Manager and City Clerk for The City of Harrison, overseeing comprehensive civic functions and driving economic development. My leadership roles in the Harrison Area Chamber of Commerce, Harrison Area Economic Development Corporation, and Habitat for Humanity Boards extend over five years, emphasizing community engagement and development. I actively volunteer, contributing to various community boards and events, and collaborate with local organizations to provide internship and mentoring opportunities to high school and college graduates. My community involvement and leadership also spanned my tenure at a local financial institution, reinforcing my commitment to community enrichment and progress.
Highlights: My tenure as City Manager has been marked by proactive initiatives and transformative projects. I have successfully acquired grants facilitating pivotal fire equipment acquisitions and instigated the comprehensive redevelopment of our city’s Master Plan. I've implemented various cost-saving measures and led the conversion of a former city building into a crucial community venue. My efforts also include expanding our business incubator and diligently seeking over $2 million in grants, aiming to revitalize our city parks. Additionally, I've introduced several pragmatic policies to formalize city operations, ensuring streamlined governance. Each endeavor and policy enactment reflects my unwavering commitment to inducing positive transformation and progressive development in our community.
Who Knew? I am married to my high school sweetheart, and have been together since age 16.
Biggest Fan: “In the few years that I have known Justin, I have watched him successfully mature his career and become an important leader in our community. He has proven to be a leader that listens to the input of those approaching him and follows through to find resolution when possible.” - Kari Garber

Trisha Galloway, 28 Owner, Longer Table

Leadership: I launched Longer Table with a purpose to follow my passion for culinary, community, and helping others. I have mentored kids in the culinary CTE program and I am in the position to sponsor both for a Disney trip for them to cook in a state of the art kitchen with famous chefs. Longer Table hosts a free community Halloween even as well as a free Christmas community dinner. I am extremely committed to bringing people around the table not just for our food, but the sense of family that our business demonstrates. I also launched a women in business group that allows local women to network and collaborate in a less informal meeting. 
Highlights: Longer Table was awarded the Mike Finney Innovation award in May. We were also awarded the Match on Main Grant this past April. This grant has allowed us to move forward to expand the physical location of our business. Over the course of the past two years Longer Table has grown from a business out of a home to a piece of our Harrison community. Longer table awarded two scholarships this past month and that was such an incredible honor to help kids follow a passion. I am extremely passionate about helping kids following their passion and I am so excited to expand our scholarship program. Longer Table is meant to feel like walking into your home and I’m proud that our customers have become pieces of our family. I could not have the impact on my community if I did not have the parents I have. They taught me from a young age the importance of hard work, community and helping people. All of these lessons have become driving forces as a business owner. 
Who Knew? I have a German Shepherd/Greyhound mix, Cole, and I love Alabama football. Roll Tide! 
Biggest Fan: “I am proud to know Trisha and admire her hard work to promote business in Harrison.  When she has events and donates money back she feels she is giving back to a community that has supported her businesses growth.” - Maye Tessner-Rood

Rachael Humphrey, 30
Parks and Recreation Coordinator at the Village of Farwell

Leadership: This is such a hard question to answer because I really do not feel like I have done more than someone else in my position would have done. But I do love my job, and everything that it entails. When I first hired in at the Village my first task was to improve the farmers market and in our first year we tripled our numbers across the board. It felt so good to get people in to see our amazing vendors and all that they have to offer! I also love to work at our community events to see all the people come in and have a good time and be able to offer them things like free school supplies!
Highlights: The biggest one obviously is the Farmers Market. This brings in business to the rest of the town as well as provides a place to buy produce and baked goods at affordable prices. To see all the smiling faces of kids as they play with the toys as their family has time to shop is so extraordinary! The vendors are such a great, welcoming group of people that are so helpful everyone that visits! The bigger events, such as the revival of the Lumberjack Festival was by far the most fun! To see the thousands of people come back to town and enjoy such a great event all for free. Our community business members were so supportive in all my requests to make that happen! At our back to school carnival this year we were able to fill 300 bags with the entire class list of supplies for our local school. As a parent I know how much that helps! I just work hard at bringing in great things for our little village (and surrounding towns) to enjoy!
Who Knew?: When I am not here at the village, I am an EMT/Firefighter at our local fire department where I am able to serve our community even more. I really enjoy that job too! I also have the coolest dog at home. Her name is Tiny and she is a 160lb Great Dane.
Biggest Fan: “Rachael has shown exceptional leadership skills within Clare County this past year. She has built up our Farmer's Market to become a bustling hub for the local community. Additionally, Rachael has overhauled the recreation and community events for our local community.” - Adrian Krawczynski

Arika Prueter, 32
Real Estate Agent

Leadership: I do not think of myself as a leader, I am just a helping hand to those in need, I will be the first to volunteer for an event that will help to uplift my community. I love being a part of my local chamber, and participating in events put on by my local board of realtors.
Highlights: I am a certified unmanned aircraft pilot, Director on the Harrison Area Chamber of Commerce and committed to excellence in my career field.
Who Knew?: I am a single mother of four strong willed and beautiful daughters, we have four cats and a 130 pound dog!
Biggest Fan: “Arika continuously strives to be an outstanding role model for her 4 girls. She demonstrates her civic duty by volunteering as a member of the Harrison Chamber of Commerce. She exemplifies the reward of hard work and importance of self-motivation as successful real estate sales person at Harrison Realty, Inc. Arika lives her life by example and continues to further her education at every opportunity.” - Kari Garber

Another Top 40 Under 40 winner in Clare County is Daniel Jenkins.

Isabella County Awardees

Dylan Banagis, 29
Co-Founder and CEO at Life Unplugged

Leadership: Volunteering with our local church, Young Life, and mentoring college students who are participating in the New Venture Competition.
Highlights: We hold community events that encourage others to break away from their screens and focus on being present with one another. We will be expanding into a downtown retail/entertainment location in early 2024. We also won Best Social Venture at NVC in 2017.
Who Knew?: I was a discus and hammer thrower on the CMU Track Team from 2012-2017 and I started Life Unplugged while I was a junior in college.
Biggest Fan: “Dylan Banagis has displayed exceptional leadership within his community by marrying his passion for outdoor recreation with a profound commitment to philanthropy. Dylan's entrepreneurship started with recognizing a desire to aid the less fortunate while adhering to his faith. His journey commenced with the establishment of "The Wanderheart Project" and later evolved into "Life Unplugged," leaving a significant mark on the community.” - Elissa Gagne

Courtney Jerome, 37
Owner of Courtney Jerome Media LLC & Managing Editor of Epicenter Mt. Pleasant

Leadership: Over the years, I've enjoyed being a small part of so many businesses' journeys, as they've trusted me to help tell their stories on a variety of platforms. As an entrepreneur, marketer, and journalist, I have a passion for showcasing the strengths of others in a positive light. Additionally, I enjoy bringing interns onto our teams to learn job skills with hands-on digital and storytelling experiences. I also love to give back to the communities and causes I'm passionate about; locally inclusive of sitting on the Mt. Pleasant Area Community Foundation's community relations committee, volunteering at the Maple Syrup Festival in Shepherd, and leading marketing discussions with members of the Mt. Pleasant Area Chamber of Commerce.
Highlights: I'm honored to share I'm a multi regional EMMY Award recipient for past work I've done in collaboration with WCMU Public Media's "Destination Michigan" television program. I've also been awarded eight ADDY Awards for marketing work our firm has done to support Michigan businesses over the past three years—including local work done for McLaren Central Michigan, Mary George of The Suites at 2929, and the Chippewa Watershed Conservancy.
Who Knew?: When I'm not working throughout the mid-Michigan region or up in the Traverse City area, you'll likely find me on a lake (yes, that was me waterskiing on Coldwater Lake October 1st!), kayaking the Chippewa River, or at a sporting event supporting our kiddos. My husband and our two boys find new ways to make me laugh and feel loved every day.
Biggest Fan: “Courtney Jerome is a brilliant, energetic, and hardworking marketing professional and entrepreneur. In addition to owning her own thriving business, Courtney Jerome Media, Courtney serves as the managing editor of Epicenter Mt. Pleasant. Courtney is an exceptional storyteller and has a wide range of experience in media. Further, Courtney serves on the Board of Directors for the Michigan Ovarian Cancer Alliance.” - Liz Conway

Jordan Leasher, 36
Network Manager, Isabella Bank

Leadership: Strive to provide exceptional service at my organization which positively impacts the community. Lead by example in public as you represent yourself and your organization.
Highlights: Volunteer at St. Joseph the Worker providing technology assistance. Mt. Pleasant Parks and Recreation coaching.
Who Knew?: We have backyard chickens for fresh eggs.
Biggest Fan: “Jordan's role at Isabella Bank has contributed significantly to the growth and development of the area by ensuring reliable and modern financial services, supporting local businesses, enhancing cybersecurity, promoting operational efficiency, facilitating community investment, and offering financial education opportunities. These efforts collectively strengthen the local economy and improve the financial well-being of the communities in the Mid Michigan region.” - Julie Smith

Lindsey Lintjer, 30
Director of Engagement & Creative Services, United Way of Gratiot & Isabella Counties 

Leadership: My leadership within our community has stemmed from my role at United Way. Working at United Way has opened up so many different avenues in terms of serving my community in a positive way such as joining various clubs and committees, creating new and exciting fundraising events, and partaking in numerous volunteer opportunities.
Highlights: I’ve been lucky enough to hold a position on the board of the Mt. Pleasant Jaycees since 2019 and an active member of the Mt. Pleasant Craft Beer Festival committee that has raised over $200,000 for local nonprofit organizations since its inception. In the past, I’ve been recognized by the Michigan Association of United Way’s as a 5 Under 25 Award Winner and a Mt. Pleasant Area Chamber of Commerce Eagle Award Winner.
Who Knew?: I have a goal of visiting all 129 lighthouses in Michigan.
Biggest Fan: “Lindsey’s passion and innovation has helped to build and grow our communities. She has generated revenue through campaigns and initiatives. She has cultivated relationships with key community stakeholders. She sees the needs in the community and creates unique and creative ways to fill the gaps that exist for community members in need.” - Annie Sanders

Hannah Martin, 31
Communication & Events Coordinator, Mt. Pleasant Area Chamber of Commerce

Leadership: In my role as Communication and Events Coordinator, I am part of a team that is dedicated to supporting economic development, providing educational opportunities, and being a champion for business growth in our community. I am lucky to have the opportunity to work with other great community leaders to create and execute impactful events that foster innovative ideas and hopefully inspire and motivate others to continue to strive for positive change. I am constantly seeking to advance and grow as a leader and am committed to working to improve the quality of life in our community.
Highlights: I believe the best way to start creating positive change in your community is to simply get involved. At the Chamber, our leadership is working hard to listen to our members and the community to identify needs and solutions to those needs. In addition, I have been a part of a revitalization of the Chamber’s Young Professionals Network, who is now working to partner-up on regional initiatives. I actively serve as a member of the Mt. Pleasant Jaycees and have joined the Adopt-A-Family Committee. The Jaycees provide many ways to give back to those in our community. In May, I was lucky to join the Board of Directors at Habitat for Humanity of Isabella County, which provides countless ways to be involved and be a part of an exciting leadership team. I look forward to serving my community and continuing to look for ways to create positive change.
Who Knew?: I lived in Australia for three years.
Biggest Fan: “Hannah Martin has the drive, demeanor, and passion to make a positive change in our community. After starting at the Mt. Pleasant Area Chamber of Commerce over a year ago, she has demonstrated her ability to be innovative, creative, and a good problem solver. She is highly dependable and a great relationship builder.” - Liz Conway

Danny McQuarters Jr., 30
Assistant Director of Diversity Education at CMU

Leadership: I love to lead those around me by helping others grow. I love to see students, interns, or anyone that I lead reach their full potential. This can be anything from a student that I coached in debate becoming a lawyer, to an intern learning a new skill that landed them a great job. I demonstrate leadership through example. It’s also very important to find what people are good at and help them enhance those strengths instead of focusing on failures.
Highlights: I love to positively impact the community primarily through educational initiatives, volunteering, and programing. One program that I’m especially proud of is Club Create of Mid-Michigan, in which adults with disabilities can get together for art, socialization, or just to hang out and make music together. I also like to find gaps and needs in the community and help facilitate bridges for those gaps. This includes volunteering at a number of local nonprofits, serving on boards and committees, or helping a student register for classes. On campus, I love to interact with students, and my biggest accomplishment (at least to me) is seeing students grasp new concepts.
Who Knew?: I love playing piano and cello but don't really care for performing. Music is my therapy!
Biggest Fan: “Danny is a first generation education achiever, beginning with high school graduation. He earned his bachelor's degree in communication studies and music performance at Cameron University in Lawton, Oklahoma. He is a proud graduate of Central Michigan University where he earned his master's degree in communication. Danny specializes in strategic communication, political rhetoric, critical theories, and community organizing.” - Nikita Murry

Alysha Pasquali, 36
CEO/COO, Mt. Pleasant Area Community Foundation

Leadership: I do my best to create a positive and fun environment in all aspects of my life. When you are having a good time doing your job or volunteering I think it naturally leads to everyone involved having a positive experience. This creates trust, retention among staff and comradery. I also believe in leading by example. If a situation calls for all hands on deck, I will be right there with my team to get the job done.
Highlights: My career has largely been in non-profit work. The organizations I have worked for all provided a service to the community. I'm incredibly proud of the work and impact I've made to date through my career. Additionally, I've volunteered my time on boards such as Art Reach and am a member of the Rotary Club of Mt. Pleasant. For the past three years, I've been working at the Rotary District level to provide short term exchange opportunities to high school students, of which Mt. Pleasant has been included in the experiences.
Who Knew?: My husband, Mark, and I have a dog named Winston, aka Peanut, and two cats: Lidia Bastianich, named after the Italian-American celebrity TV chef, and Aldena Frankalucci, named after Mark’s great aunt.
Biggest Fan: “Alysha Pasquali, recently named the President and CEO of the Mt. Pleasant Area Community Foundation, is an engaging and energetic leader who thrives in relationship building. She has confidence, grace, and the ability to make people feel at ease when they converse with her. What’s even more amazing about Alysha is that she can juggle a multitude of projects without missing a beat. Alysha is active in Rotary and is passionate about our community.” - Liz Conway
Another Top 40 Under 40 winner in Isabella County is Amanda Eccleston.

Gladwin County Awardees

John Andrist, 36, Master Scheduler, Saint-Gobain

Leadership: I’m very active in my community through the Beaverton Lions Club, recently finishing a two-year term as president of the organization. Volunteering can be contagious and fun! I served nearly 10 years as a firefighter and medical responder for the Beaverton Fire Department and also volunteered for Billings Township Dive Team as a certified diver, and two terms on the City of Beaverton City Council.  “Alone we can do so little; Together we can do so much” is a quote by Helen Keller that we should all embrace. 
Highlights: I am very thankful for the opportunities that have been provided by my employer for professional advancements, allowing me to remain in and serve my community. I’m also very excited to join the business community as my wife Taylor and I recently launched a new business, Cedar River Rentals. Nothing means more to me than my two children, who I hope find as much joy in serving others as I have. 
Who Knew: I have a twin brother, Phil, who also has a passion for serving and leading his community as Fire Chief of Beaverton! 
Biggest Fan: "In addition to being an outstanding public servant and community member, John has also built a successful career locally. Having the opportunity to engage with the youth through the Beaverton High School LEO Club, John is able to mentor and encourage the youth to become involved by giving back and serving the community." - Matt Lang


Kennedy Cripps, 26
Director of Graduate Programs at Northwood University’s DeVos Graduate School

Leadership: I was born and raised in Beaverton, MI and I couldn't be prouder to give back to the community that has given so much to me. Attending college in Midland at Northwood University and staying in the mid-Michigan area for my chosen career has allowed me to build a solid network with people in the region. I also am a co-owner of a flower and gift shop in Beaverton, Sugarbeet Blooms & Bridal. I serve on the board at the Beaverton Activity Center and we are a proud member of the Beaverton Area Business Association (BABA). I am also a member of Midland Young Professionals (MYPros). 
Highlights: Since buying the local flower shop in Beaverton in March, it has allowed me many opportunities to give back to my community. One that comes to mind is the opportunity to become involved in the fundraising and business sponsorship for the Beaverton 4th of July Fireworks, done by a committee of volunteers on behalf of the Beaverton Area Business Association. We proudly increased business sponsorships over 50% from 2022 to 2023 and we have some even more exciting ideas in store for next year! The Beaverton Activity Center is a non-profit that repurposed an old school in Beaverton, built in 1936. It was renovated and reopened in 2015 and now serves many purposes, including a fitness center, a gymnasium for youth sports and school plays, meeting rooms, houses a cafe, our local library, preschool, My Michigan Health rehabilitation, and more. Overall, it is an iconic piece of Beaverton's history and is the hub of all activities and interests. I proudly serve on the board for this great organization that is a pillar in our community.
Who Knew?: 1. I graduated with my MBA at 20 years old. 2. I thoroughly enjoy the outdoors - hunting, side-by-side riding, etc. My husband and I own a little over 280 acres in Gladwin and Ogemaw County.
Biggest Fan: “Kennedy has been a visible leader throughout her entire life in Gladwin County, striving to make the community a better place, she was rewarded with numerous personal accomplishments along the way. She currently serves as Director of Graduate Programs at Northwood University, and previously worked in manufacturing at Robinson Industries. Cripps also serves on the board of directors for the Beaverton Activity Center.” - Matt Lang

Brock Dennings, 39
President and Owner of FED Corporation

Leadership: I am passionate about the growth and development of Gladwin. I invest in our community's youth organizations. Together with my team, we strive to bring as much business into our small town as we can. We have spearheaded developments that have brought hundreds of jobs to our community and that has made a lasting impact.
Highlights: I serve on multiple boards that are community focused and support youth athletics and extracurricular activities. I also strongly believe in developing and investing in my team and business. Through this training and development of my team I have helped influence and mentor other leaders within our company and community. I believe helping individuals reach their goals and highest potential furthers impact in our community. I am a proud member of the Young Presidents Organization, a group of young executives taking companies to the next level to help better their communities.
Who Knew?: Me and my family swim with sharks every year.
Biggest Fan: “Through hard work and dedication, Brock has elevated his professional career while keeping his community forefront through volunteer and philanthropy.” - Matt Lang

Taylor Eaton, 32
Accountant, Smith and Associates & Owner, Beaverton Tavern

Leadership: I am an active member of the BABA, coaching little league softball, basketball and volleyball, owner of the Beaverton Tavern and Accountant at Smith & Associates. I do multiple things with the school. Anytime my two daughters need a volunteer in their classrooms I always sign up.
Highlights: My family opening the Beaverton Tavern was huge for the community. The Tavern is a huge staple in the community. I have also coached quite a few little league sports teams over the years. Teaching the kids how to do sports is one of my prides. The reaction when they finally accomplish something they have been struggling with is the best.
Who Knew?: I have traveled to 6 different countries. We take at least three trips a year and I love sharing travel experiences with my two daughters.
Biggest Fan: “Taylor volunteers her time coaching and leading youth activities in the community. This gives her a platform to show our youth that anyone can be successful in our community with hard work and dedication.” - Matt Lang

Whitney King, 31
Burkhart-Presidio Insurance Agency - Producer

Leadership: Through my community involvement I have taken a leadership role in several organizations. I am the President of Gladwin County Kiwanis, the Secretary of the Gladwin County Chamber of Commerce, the Vice President of Beaverton Area Business Association and a member of the Gladwin Business and Professional Association.
Highlights: I am very fortunate to have bosses who support and encourage community involvement. This has given me the opportunity to get involved with several non-profit organizations and participate in the Gladwin County Leadership Program. This has led me to take on a leadership role in our Local Festival of Lights Christmas Parade. I am passionate about helping make things happen that not only my family and friends can enjoy but the community as a whole. My main focus is on having a community who supports and encourages children. My involvement with Kiwanis started because of the investment into the children of the community. I have been the Key Club advisor for the last several years and was awarded Kiwanian of the Year in 2021.
Who Knew?: My favorite hobby is making soap.
Biggest Fan: “Whitneys commitment and dedication to both Beaverton Area Business Association and Gladwin County Chamber of Commerce have let to positive community and economic development projects.” - Matt Lang

Kayla Krahner, 36
Site Coordinator at Saint-Gobain for Beaverton & Traverse City Locations

Leadership:  I was born and raised in Beaverton, Michigan and fortunate enough to be part of an international company in my back yard. It has been a whirlwind of experience and mentorship since I have been with Saint-Gobain for 19 years. I started as the high school co-op stayed on while I went to Davenport University. I graduated with my bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and Accounting. I was promoted to Cost Accountant once I graduated and worked with the Site Controller for many years. She has been a tremendous impact on becoming the leader I’m today and led into becoming the Site Controller for Beaverton & Traverse City site’s. ​​​​​​​
Highlights:  I have served on many different committees within the community such as Gladwin Community Foundation Grant committee, Beaverton’s Business Advisory Department & Tobacco Townships Deputy’s Clerk. I also ran the Saint-Gobain foundation grant committee for many years. I found great pride in being part of these committee’s and being able to give back to my community. ​​​​​​​
Who Knew?:  I enjoy spending time with my two sons, Mason and Brady, and my husband Zach. We love to camp during the summer and fall months trying out many different campgrounds in Michigan. ​​​​​​​
Biggest Fan:​​​​​​​ "Kayla has shared her story with many youth. She began her career as a high school co-op, then as a college co-op while attending Davenport University. She has since earned promotions, and serves as Site Controller for multiple Saint-Gobain North America sites. Her story is proof that opportunities during our youth years can lead to success and it can all be accomplished while staying in Gladwin County" - Matt Lang

Ryan Longstreth, 33
Co-owner Mechatronics Solutions LLC

Leadership: I'm very active in youth coaching with sports such as flag football, baseball, basketball and any other activity my kids are involved with. I'm also serving as a board member on our local youth little league. Athletics have always been a big passion of mine and I was lucky to have a lot of success in my past baseball career. I look forward to being able to share skills and knowledge I learned and pass onto the next generation.
Highlights: When my family and I moved back to the area it was important to me to be involved with the community I grew up in. When the opportunity for a school board position opened in January 2021 I expressed interest and was voted in. This has been a great experience and way to take part in community growth since joining in 2021. I look forward to continuing to serve on the board and try my best to make a positive impact for our students and school district as a whole.
Who Knew?: I was a baseball player at Central Michigan University 2010-2012. Also, i was drafted by the Detroit Tigers and spent 3.5 years playing professional baseball in their organization.
Biggest Fan: "Few people from small communities are drafted to play professional sports. Ryan shares his story with the youth, that no matter where you come from, you can accomplish anything, like playing professional sports or owning your own business like he has been able to do." - Matt Lang

Autumn Matthews, 27
Director of Workforce & Economic Development, Mid Michigan College

Leadership: I have worked with the Workforce & Economic Development division at Mid for 8 years, beginning as a student worker in 2015. Over this time, I have experienced every aspect within each of our short-term training programs, collaborated with local businesses to provide customized training and workshops, and supported partners like Central Michigan Manufacturers Association. It’s very neat to now be in the role of leading our team in these areas. My experiences help to support them. I hope to always be the one that they can look to for assistance and want to empower them to be the best possible versions of themselves. Together, we will achieve our goals and reach new possibilities.
Highlights: I have had the opportunity to support and grow the short-term training programs. Short-term training provides individuals with an educational opportunity to begin a rewarding career quickly. These programs are 8-12 weeks or less and lead to an industry recognized credential that allows them to seek employment immediately. Phlebotomy is one of our biggest short-term offerings. In 2015, phlebotomy classes were only offered at Mid's Harrison and Mt. Pleasant campuses. With strategic planning and phenomenal program integrity, we now hold classes in 8 locations throughout the State, serving community needs for quality trained phlebotomists. CDL Truck Driving is another prominent short-term training. Striving to meet the industry growing demand for truck drivers, Mid developed this training offering at the Mt. Pleasant campus in 2017. To date we have trained 235 individuals who successfully obtained their CDL. We recently revamped the program to streamline administrative roles and provide a better student experience.
Who Knew?: I enjoy visiting Michigan Lighthouses and have a goal to see all 121 lighthouses that are accessible to the public. I have been to about 40 so far. It's intriguing to learn their history and a neat experience to tour some of them!
Biggest Fan: “Through her dedication to work, Autumn is helping businesses, communities and talent emerge, shaping the future and ensuring long term success of our region.” - Matt Lang

Samantha Oard, 35
Service Level Manager, Dow

Leadership:  I am very passionate about advocacy and volunteer work in our community to help our Gladwin County youth achieve great things.
Highlights: I currently act as Beaverton districts Parent Advisor alongside other CGRESD parents where I have the opportunity to connect and mentor other families. I have been a part of many youth sport boards, in the past I actively participated in the Beaverton youth baseball organization. I now serve as President for the Gladwin Area Hockey Association and serve in an active role on our Gladwin Arena board. In addition, I am an active participant with our Disability Network at Dow where I enjoy advocating and bringing awareness to different needs.
Who Knew?:  I have an identical twin sister :)
Biggest Fan: "Through various community channels and the school system, Samantha has made it her mission to ensure that the community and its programs are inclusive to all of its members by helping the younger generation understand that differences are what make each person unique and special" - Matt Lang

William Oard, 37
Material Data Administrator, Dow Chemical & Trustee, Tobacco Twp

Leadership:  I was raised with the belief that the greatest ability is availability. I have never had to search out opportunities; they always seem to find me. In my mid-20s I was approached to become involved with the local city council and now, as a township trustee, I am about to enter my 10th year in municipal leadership. I have been blessed to be able to give my time and energy to our local organizations, whether it is attending meetings and workshops or getting my hands dirty helping clear land for community projects. We can all be great leaders simply by leading by example.
Highlights:  Through the township, as a trustee, we strive to protect the rights of those in the community. We have worked with and supported the many organizations that have stepped up to help rebuild our dams that were destroyed in 2020's flood. As part of our local Fire Department's board, we come together to support the volunteers, purchase new equipment, and have recently created the first full-time chief position in the department's history. On the Trail Authority, we have brought a recreational bike and walking path from Gladwin City to Beaverton City, with trail heads and kayak launches along the trail. I also helped start and organize our area's only 5k fun run: the Beaverton Firecracker 5k.​​​​​​​
Who Knew?:  My wife and I love camping and traveling with our daughter. I enjoy running and participating in race events in my free time.​​​​​​​ 
Biggest Fan: "By serving in local government, William "BJ" has been leading by example for the next generation to get involved, be active and participate in roles that affect the community." - Matt Lang

Shauna Puchel, 37
Founder and CEO, Beach Club Seltzer

Leadership: Leadership takes integrity, decisiveness, resilience, accountability, adaptability and exceptional communication. All of these things are what make good leaders in business but also in municipal management. Articulating a vision clearly has always come naturally to me and creating a strategic plan to accomplish those goals are my specialty. But what's more important than the vision is the team. A team that can communicate, problem-solve, adapt, strategically think, conflict resolve and encourage is the ultimate goal. We all have to be comfortable with being uncomfortable.
Highlights: I've worked with local non-profits to showcase how social media awareness along with online payment can drive donations.
Who Knew?: I have four children and love summers in Michigan! I've traveled all over the world and truthfully, nothing beats all that Michigan has to offer!
Biggest Fan: “A bona fide entrepreneur, Shauna continues to turn dreams into reality. By choosing Mid-Michigan as headquarters for her most recent venture, Beach Club, Shauna is committed to growing the local economy, creating meaningful employment opportunities and giving back to the community that helped raise her.” - Matt Lang
Another Top 40 Under 40 winner in Gladwin County is Lance Tenwalde.

Gratiot County Awardees

Alex Catlin, 37
Supervisor of Rehab Services at MyMichigan Health - Mt. Pleasant

Leadership: I have provided physical therapy services to community members of both Gratiot and Isabella counties over the past 12 years. In the last two years I have taken on the role of supervisor of rehab services in Mt. Pleasant. Together with my team, we have been recognized as a top performer in rehab services in the Isabella County people's choice awards. We have also established a relationship with CMU athletics and are now their exclusive provider of sports medicine services.
Highlights: I have a strong passion for athletics. Being a former college athlete, I understand the importance of mentorship in youth sports. Much of the success in my life comes from following the teachings of the men and women that volunteered their time to mentor me. I feel an obligation to give back in the same way, volunteering my time as a youth football and wrestling coach. I am also actively involved in my local church on the Crisis response Team, using my skills as a physical therapist to help in emergent health situations. Most recently, I was selected for enrollment in the Rollie Denison Leadership Institute where I hope to make connections with other local leaders to see where I can use my skill set to best serve our community.
Who Knew?: I love hunting deer and Alma Scots football!
Biggest Fan: “Alex Catlin leads first and foremost through service. He is willing to step in and fill the gaps that would otherwise go unfilled. He will see the need and fill it without being asked or prompted. He truly likes to take on challenges, and I have yet to see him not overcome these challenges with professionalism and charm. Whether coaching Wrestling, Football, or volunteering with the Crisis Response Team at his church, Alex is the epitome of a leader.” - Brian Locke

Curtis Dancer, 30
Finance Director/Treasurer at City of Alma

Leadership: I was a graduate of the Gratiot Young Professionals Network's (GYPN) Inaugural Leadership Development Workshop and have since joined the GYPN's Planning Committee, serving as Treasurer. I am also the chair of the City of Alma's Parks and Recreation Committee. Additionally, my wife and I founded ZENlightenment Wellness Center in Alma and purchased RedBloom Center for Community Wellness and relocated the business to St. Louis, bringing jobs to Gratiot County and giving back to the community through donations, sponsorships, community service and volunteerism.
Highlights: I serve on the Gratiot County Community Foundation's Development Committee where we recently planned the Foundation's 30th Anniversary Celebration. I also serve on the Alma Action Association Committee and have helped plan events such as the Alma Alive and Come Home to Alma annual events. In 2022 I played a large role in the City of Alma's hosting of the Connecting Entrepreneurial Communities Conference, serving on the planning committee, as a moderator, and as a conference speaker with the Gratiot Young Professionals Network.
Who Knew?: When I am not at work or volunteering in the community, you can usually find me working on race cars in the family shop or at a local dirt race track. I have been a dirt race car driver since 2016 following in the steps of my father and uncles who have been racing at local tracks across the state since the late 1980s.
Biggest Fan: “Curtis's work ethic and demeanor has inspired trust with his fellow department heads as the organization adjusts to the new requirements from State and/or Federal agencies. His support as Finance Director is needed in some way on all grant applications submitted from all City departments, so in essence any project within the City, Curtis has a hand in or input upon.” - Aeric Ripley

Shana Dancer, 30
Owner of ZENlightenment Wellness Center and RedBloom Center for Community Wellness

Leadership: I aim to lead by example. I make space for myself at the table and make my presence known by speaking up when I see a change that would benefit the community. When others feel as if they do not have the voice to do the same, I speak on their behalf because I strongly believe that something can be learned from everyone. After having completed the Leadership Development Workshop via the Gratiot Young Professionals Network, I discovered one of my leadership styles is Coaching. I assist others in discovering their confidence and achieving their goals.
Highlights: I opened my first holistic wellness business, ZENlightenment Wellness Center, in January 2021, in the midst of a pandemic when health was paramount. I saw a need in the community I grew up in and took it upon myself to fill that need. Wanting to expand these services, in September 2022 I purchased what is now known as RedBloom Center for Community Wellness. I strive for both locations to serve as wellness hubs within Gratiot County; we aim to either provide the service you are looking for or know who to refer you to. I also work closely with the Gratiot County Child Advocacy, specifically as part of the Gratiot County Substance and Suicide Prevention Program as the Vice Chair and the Child Abuse and Neglect Council Advisory Committee. These programs strive to increase the overall wellbeing of the community by providing education, tools, and programming to students and adults.
Who Knew?: I have traveled to nearly half of the 50 states and 3 continents.
Biggest Fan: “Between the two businesses, Shana has created over ten job opportunities in Gratiot County since she started her first business in November of 2020, during the height of the pandemic. Shana frequently donates time and resources to projects that provide opportunities to members of the community.” - Curtis Dancer

Jake Gregory, 32
Co-Executive Director, Operations, Gratiot County Hope House

Leadership: I first came to Gratiot County in 2014 to serve as Pastor of the Nazarene Church in St. Louis. This role opened my eyes to the needs of our community, specifically the growing homeless population. As a result, myself and another community Pastor, Nathan Workman, stepped up to create Gratiot County’s first homeless shelter, Gratiot County Hope House in 2018. Since that time, it has grown from a cold-weather, seasonal, entirely volunteer shelter to a full-time shelter serving more than 100 people annually with a full staff. Today Hope House is a widely respected agency in the homeless-service community.
Highlights: In addition to helping create Gratiot County Hope House, during my time serving in Gratiot County, I have been privileged to work for the betterment and wholeness of our community in a variety of ways. I helped lead the way in building a supportive relationship between our church and a local elementary school. I have worked for several years as a community leader in the Gratiot County treatment courts by serving on those teams and by providing supportive community service opportunities to participants. I have served in leadership positions and on the board of several community organizations including area non-profits and committees. One of my greatest joys these days is getting the opportunity to help destigmatize and teach about homelessness and poverty in our community through our Poverty 101 class. I have been given the opportunity to teach this class in community groups, churches, college classrooms, businesses, and healthcare training.
Who Knew?: I am an avid snowmobiler and logged over 650 miles last season.
Biggest Fan: “Jake cofounded Hope House which is a ministry that addresses homelessness in Gratiot County. He also serves on the non profit collaborative.” - Aaron Mora

Chelsea Holmes Matz, 33
Executive Director, Gratiot County Community Foundation

Leadership: I have a strong interest in the field of philanthropy and the role community foundations play in supporting communities. Growing up in Alma, I saw firsthand the hard-working ethos of this county. In every aspect of my life, the lessons learned from Gratiot County have allowed me to make a difference and be engaged in solving challenges. What I love most about my job is having the opportunity every single day to work with incredible people in Gratiot County, and to give back to the community that shaped me into who I am today. I love that my job encompasses helping lead the growth of the Foundation in creating sustainable solutions that improve communities in Gratiot County.
Highlights: The Gratiot County Community Foundation provides grants to non-profit organizations, scholarships to local students, engages volunteers, and is a community leader and convener. The Foundation has had quite an impactful year, and it is an honor to be a part of this great organization. This past year:
  • More than $600,000 has been awarded in grants and scholarships.
  • Awarded more than $180,000 in Scholarships to 70 local students.
  • Foundation’s managed assets are around $16 million.
  • There are more than 130 Funds at the Foundation that support a variety of community needs.
  • The Foundation thanks its generous donors who have made a commitment to our Gratiot County community, and give back to make a difference for many organizations. I am proud of all the wonderful things the Foundation has accomplished thus far, and am looking forward to leading the Foundation to be an even greater force for good in our community.
Who Knew?: I have dual citizenship with Luxembourg! My Great Grandmother immigrated from Luxembourg, and because of her, I had the opportunity to become a citizen at the start of 2023!
Biggest Fan: “Chelsea has been among the core leaders in the development of the Gratiot Young Professionals Network. Chelsea was part of the inaugural class of the Leadership Development Workshop in 2021 and was a part of the planning and review of future Leadership Development Workshops post-graduation. Chelsea has also helped plan networking and volunteering events for the organization as a Committee Member. She actively recruits and refers young professionals to the organization and serves as an ambassador for GYPN. But most importantly, Chelsea leads by example by attending and promoting the many opportunities for community involvement within the County.” - Curtis Dancer 

Carla Jensen, 38
Co-Director of the Alma College Center for College and Community Engagement

Leadership: Over the past ten years, I have had the opportunity to grow within a variety of roles at Alma College, most recently supporting the launch of the Center for College and Community Engagement (3CE). Seeking opportunities for the college to engage with mid-Michigan partners in reciprocal, mutually beneficial ways, I encourage students who have come from all over the state and beyond to engage deeply and to feel at home in mid-Michigan. Connecting with the broader Mid-Michigan community has been the most rewarding part of this journey so far.
Highlights: I am proud of the implementation of the Alma Venture program, which funds experiential learning. This program has enabled more than 1,500 students to experience internships, research, clinical, service, and study abroad as part of their college education. I know firsthand how impactful these experiences can be, and love to hear from alumni about how their experiences beyond campus have shaped their educational and professional journeys. Since the launch of the Center for College and Community Engagement, I’ve had the pleasure of working directly with community partners, including advising our student-led Alternative Breaks program that organizes service projects during college breaks (completing over 3,600 service hours in 2022-23), and supporting the team of Americorps VISTAs doing capacity building work with local nonprofit partners. Working with the City of Alma and other local entities exploring place-making strategies to enhance our region has been a highlight of my experience with the 3CE.
Who Knew?: My undergraduate internship at a university in Southeast Asia changed my career direction and led me to higher education administration. Having studied economic development as an undergraduate and city and regional planning as a graduate student prior to a decade working in higher education, my work with the 3CE feels like coming full circle, bringing together my personal, professional, and academic interests.
Biggest Fan: “Prior to co-directing the Center for College and Community Engagement, Carla launched the Alma Venture Program at Alma College. Through this program she has built and maintained pathways for students to have transformational experiences outside of the classroom in ways that positively impact their future career goals.” - Brittany Stoneman

Samantha Mitchell, 39
Center Director, Children's Discovery Academy

Leadership: I am one of the incorporating board members of Children's Discovery Academy and have served on that Board for seven years. I have been the Board Secretary for 6 years, the Communication Coordinator for 4 years, and have been the Center Director for three years. As a Board Member, I have worked with the Gratiot Community to start this nonprofit and open the childcare center. As the Director, it has been an absolute pleasure to work with aspiring young professionals in the Early Childhood field. Many apply because they love children, and it is magical to train and develop young talent as our teachers discover all the intricacies of teaching and caring for young children.
Highlights: Beyond my work with Children's Discovery Academy, I have served 7 years as a volunteer in the Alma Cub Scout Pack 3610, as the Advancement Coordinator, Committee Member, Lion Leader, Tiger Den Leader, and Cubmaster. In Scouts, I became trained as an adult leader and earned the Scouter's Training Award for Cub Scout Leaders. I also served as the Chair of the Expand Early Childhood Support and Services committee for Alma Aspires. I truly enjoy helping my community thrive by lending a helping hand wherever I can.
Who Knew?: I love to read and was in a writers club in high school where I tried my hand at poetry.
Biggest Fan: “Samantha cares deeply for children and has devoted her career to creating nurturing environments for you children to grow, learn, and thrive.” - Todd Mitchell

Rachel Molands, 30
GCSSPP Prevention Educator at Child Advocacy - Gratiot County

Leadership: I sit on the executive board for the Gratiot Young Professional Network (GYPN) and Gratiot County Optimist Club. I believe in serving our community and helping those that have been impacted by child abuse/neglect and substance misuse.
Highlights: Gratiot County Optimist of the Year, 21-22, Graduate of the GYPN Leadership Development Workshop, 2022, CASA Volunteer, 16-Present
Who Knew?: Was a member of the Chippewa Marching Band (2012, 2013, 2015). Fire up Chips!
Biggest Fan: “Rachel is a passionate professional and dedicated social justice advocate who has served in many leadership roles dedicated to public service. Rachel has been with Child Advocacy since 2018 serving in different roles within the organization. She has most recently been named the Gratiot County Substance Abuse Prevention Educator where she will be responsible for providing substance use prevention education and activities to children and their families within Gratiot County.” - Curtis Dancer

Brittany Stoneman, 32
Community Impact Manager, United Way of Gratiot & Isabella Counties

Leadership: Since returning to Gratiot County post-college, I have sought to be an engaged member of my community, through volunteer and leadership service. This has changed throughout the years as my family has grown but has included volunteering with groups such as Breckenridge FFA Alumni & Boosters, Keep Alma Beautiful, Gratiot Chamber's AgriFit Challenge, and Alma United Methodist Church. More recently, I completed the Gratiot Young Professionals Network Leadership Development Workshop and joined the GYPN planning committee to bring networking, volunteer, and leadership development events to young professionals in Gratiot County. I'm also a member of the Gratiot County Optimist Club and St. Louis-Alma Rotary Club.
Highlights: I am proud of building a career in the non-profit space, formerly at Alma College and now with United Way. As Associate Director for Career Development at Alma College I worked to prepare graduates for life after Alma, including mentoring students and providing tailored resources for career exploration, grad school prep, and career readiness. In my role with the United Way, I’ve deepened my community engaged work. I’m able to support initiatives like Alma Aspires, a strategic planning initiative for Alma and Gratiot County, in addition to working with the many non-profit agencies in Gratiot & Isabella Counties. Additionally, I’ve continued to serve as a member of the Gratiot Young Professionals Network planning committee to bring networking, volunteer, and leadership development opportunities to young professionals in Gratiot County. By showing up where the work is being done, volunteering, and making connections, I believe I am making a difference in my community.
Who Knew?: I love crafting and creating art of all kinds, including painting, sewing, collaging, and other paper crafts. A fun tradition in my family is bi-annual "quilt camps", where my family gathers to sew and craft together. I even have a tomato pin cushion tattoo as a unique memento of the special memories I have growing up sewing with my grandma, who is still leading our quilt camps and teaching our family the art of quilting.
Biggest Fan: “Brittany has helped many organizations within the community fill job openings and provide placement opportunities for Alma College students.” - Curtis Dancer

Osceola County Awardees

Nick Grein, 36
Owner, Park Street Repair

Leadership: Operating a business that serves my community.
Highlights: I’ve been self employed for 2 years. My business tries to give back to the community whenever possible.
Who Knew?: Exercise is my favorite pastime. 
Biggest Fan: “Nick has supported a variety of community events through business sponsorships. He also volunteers regularly at the Osceola County Shepherd's Table in Reed City which provides meals weekly to those who need it.” - Rich Saladin


Tyler Huntey, 31
CEO - Huntley’s Clubhouse

Leadership: “This country will not be a good place for any of us to live in unless we make it a good place for all of us to live in.”- Theodore Roosevelt.
I try to be charitable and influential with my time. I believe that by getting the right groups of people together with the right mission, great things can be accomplished. I strive to be a positive force by leading a regional child care operation, being on the board of my local chamber of commerce and sitting as a trustee of my township.
Highlights: In the last 3 years we have expanded our childcare operation to 6 communities in our region. Huntey's Clubhouse has capacity to provide care for 750 children and has 150 team members. Providing a high- quality and reliable service to families in our communities is a proud accomplishment.
Who Knew?: I enjoy spending time with my two sons, Jude and William, and my wife Alexis. My hobbies are golfing, exercising and playing sports. I went to Central Michigan University and played on the 2015 MAC championship baseball team.
Biggest Fan: “Tyler's unwavering willingness to offer guidance and assistance to those in need, whether it be personal support or business advice, underscores his mentoring nature. His commitment to continuous learning and his role as a "student of life" showcase his dedication to personal growth and self-improvement. Tyler's approach exemplifies a mindset of perpetual curiosity and a genuine desire to help and empower others, making him a valuable asset to both his community and the business world.” - Alexis Huntley

Spencer Mund, 25
Purchasing Manager, Reed City Group

Leadership: Since January of 2021, I have been serving on the Reed City Area Public Schools Board of Education giving my perspective and leading our school district. I am also a purchasing manager at an industrial manufacturing company in Reed City. I attended Reed City High School and went to Ferris State University for my undergraduate degree. I have lived in Reed City my entire life and would like to think I am living proof that staying in one’s hometown is worth it.
Highlights: I was elected to our local school board of education as a 22-year-old recent college graduate. Being elected to represent my community was humbling. I have had many opportunities to provide leadership and governance to our school system as we strive to refine our education system to provide a diverse education with equitable opportunities to our students. I am also part owner of a real estate company that specializes in middle market single family rental homes, with the goal of filling the housing gap that exists in our region. In the fall of 2020, I began working with my business partners to start filling that gap to balance supply and demand in our community where we have made progress, but there is still a large amount of work to go.
Who Knew?: I am a car enthusiast! I have owned a few different vehicles, around fifteen since I was 16 years old and able to drive. I can often be seen reading a car magazine or searching for my next ride.
Biggest Fan: “At the young age of 23, Spencer decided he wanted to make a difference in our community and our school district. He decided to run for the Reed City Area Public Schools Board of Education. After being elected (at 23 and starting his term at age 24) we learned he was the 2nd youngest person ever elected on a school board in the state of Michigan. The youngest is just a few months younger than Spencer.” - Chris Mund

LindsAy Sandelius, 32
Director at The Eagles Nest

Leadership: I was given a blank slate to work with and an extremely supportive administration. I was able to create a safe loving environment for children where families could trust us to keep their children cared for while they could continue working and supporting this community. Many children in our care would have been forced to attend different school districts where care was available, especially before and after school. It took a lot of hard work and time but to see all of the benefits playing out for the community has been an amazing reward. Families are able to stay in the area, the school is growing, and parents are able to continue working knowing they have a safe place for their kids to go.
Highlights: I was hired by Marion Public Schools in February of 2022 to create a daycare program within the school for families in the area after a main daycare had closed down and left the area leaving families with nowhere to take their children. I started with two empty classrooms and by June 2022 we were licensed and up and running. A little over a year later we have added more spaces, have all rooms filled with children from the area, and have multiple local individuals employed with the daycare.
Who Knew?: I love collecting rocks from places I visit.
Biggest Fan: “Lindsay has a deep passion for directing a highly educational and safe place for our children in our community of Marion. As a director, she manages a 3 room center, supervising the lead teachers along with the aides. She has written several grants and has always filled in at any capacity to make the Daycare run smoothly. She has been an intricate part in making this center a success. It has brought many children to our community along with allowing parents to go back to work knowing their children have a safe place to go.” - Alicia Michell

Other Top 40 Under 40 winners in Osceola County include Dan Michell and Trevor Mund.
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Read more articles by Courtney Jerome.

With 15 years of professional media experience, Courtney Jerome has found a passion for storytelling and showcasing our region in a positive light. She's written stories for television broadcasts, numerous magazines, and digital publications. In addition, she owns a boutique creative marketing agency that focuses on social media, photo, and video storytelling for small businesses across Michigan and the country — courtneyjeromemedia.com. Contact Courtney, the managing editor of Epicenter, at editor@epicentermtpleasant.com.