Leading the way: Chamber’s fourth annual Leadership Program underway

The Manistee Area Chamber of Commerce’s 2018-19 Leadership Team consists of Luke Brechting of Packaging Corporation of America; Dan Debano of Munson Healthcare Manistee Hospital; Sara Ferguson of Filer Credit Union; Nick Fortier of Smith & Eddy Insurance Inc.; Sheldon Gilbert of Munson Healthcare Manistee Hospital; Ryan Gunnett of Blarney Castle Oil & Propane; Cheryl Hogan of West Shore Community College; Christina Karnisz of Alliance for Economic Success; Brandon Prince of City of Manistee; Angela Rabb of City of Manistee; Jodi Walter of Little River Casino Resort; and Taylor White of Vanderwal, Spratto & Richards PC. (Courtesy photo)

The Manistee Area Chamber of Commerce’s 2018-19 Leadership Team consists of Luke Brechting of Packaging Corporation of America; Dan Debano of Munson Healthcare Manistee Hospital; Sara Ferguson of Filer Credit Union; Nick Fortier of Smith & Eddy Insurance Inc.; Sheldon Gilbert of Munson Healthcare Manistee Hospital; Ryan Gunnett of Blarney Castle Oil & Propane; Cheryl Hogan of West Shore Community College; Christina Karnisz of Alliance for Economic Success; Brandon Prince of City of Manistee; Angela Rabb of City of Manistee; Jodi Walter of Little River Casino Resort; and Taylor White of Vanderwal, Spratto & Richards PC. (Courtesy photo)

MANISTEE COUNTY — Building off its success of the last few years, a new wave of local leaders got together recently to kick off the Manistee Area Chamber of Commerce’s fourth annual leadership program.

Following recent tradition, the Class of 2018-19 spent much of its two-day kickoff retreat at Portage Lake Bible Camp of Onekama for team building activities and the selection of the group’s community project.

From there, the nine-month program is dedicated to the development of leadership skills through education, awareness and networking relationships.

“This program has been really great in terms of building a network of current and upcoming leaders in the community,” said Stacie Bytwork, president of the Manistee Area Chamber of Commerce.

During the course of their time frame together, group members will reconvene for various full-day sessions designed to showcase many areas of the local community and provide opportunities to meet current community leaders, identify trends, challenges and issues facing the Manistee County area with the goal of becoming future community leaders who anticipate change and act decisively. Participants will engage in themed sessions, including Natural Resource Day, Education Day, Healthcare Day, Industrial Day, Government/Justice Day, Tribal Day and History Day.

“The leadership program connects local leaders with each other and with the community,” said Stacie Bytwork, executive director of the Manistee Area Chamber of Commerce. “They get to learn about a wide range of things our community has to offer, and they can then apply that to their own profession, or personally, by being more active and involved in our area and economy.”

For participant Jodi Walter, the food and beverage director at the Little River Casino Resort, the opportunity to meet new people is welcomed with open arms.

“As a transplant to this community, I really love that I’m meeting some people who I would have never met otherwise,” she said. “I’m hoping what I learn here in the next nine months will give me empowerment to help make good changes in this community.

Walter joins team members Luke Brechting of Packaging Corporation of America; Dan Debano of Munson Healthcare Manistee Hospital; Sara Ferguson of Filer Credit Union; Nick Fortier of Smith & Eddy Insurance Inc.; Sheldon Gilbert of Munson Healthcare Manistee Hospital; Ryan Gunnett of Blarney Castle Oil & Propane; Cheryl Hogan of West Shore Community College; Christina Karnisz of Alliance for Economic Success; Brandon Prince of City of Manistee; Angela Rabb of City of Manistee; and Taylor White of Vanderwal, Spratto & Richards PC.

“The leadership program connects local leaders with each other and with the community,” Bytwork said. “They get to learn about a wide range of things our community has to offer, and they can then apply that to their own profession, or personally, by being more active and involved in our area and economy.”

A big part of the leadership program is the group’s community project.

The 2015-16 Leadership Class, for example, chose to help Habitat for Humanity by assisting the organization with setting up an accounting system, volunteer database and obtaining a new laptop.

In 2016-17, the group organized and hosted an Imagine Manistee Community Input event and live survey, which gathered information from community members on what their vision was for the future of Manistee. The results were in turn shared with City of Manistee officials.

Last year, the leadership team’s Big Day of Serving was a huge success as nearly 400 volunteers — individuals, businesses, organizations and groups — completed nearly 65 projects across the county that ranged from painting, cleaning, raking, constructing and more.

The current class listened to five pitches for community projects and ultimately selected one made by the Manistee County Council on Aging. In the months to come, the team will hash out details of the project and work collaboratively to accomplish its goal.

“The decision was not an easy one,” said Hogan of West Shore. “All the projects were wonderful and provided opportunity for the City of Manistee and/or the entire county.”

The Manistee Area Leadership Program is sponsored by Baker College of Cadillac, Munson Healthcare Manistee Hospital, and West Shore Community College.

avatar

Posted by Dylan Savela

Dylan is the county reporter for the News Advocate, he also is in charge of the Small Town Life, religion and senior pages. He can be reached at (231) 398-3111 or dsavela@pioneergroup.com.

Leave a Reply