By Ken De Laat
Camp Newaygo was the scene of this year’s Influential Women in Leadership luncheon and the nominees and other attendees settled into the cozy atmosphere of the lodge to mingle, network and chat with each other before being welcomed by Julie Burrell of The Right Place. Ms. Burrell, who captured an award at the inaugural event two years ago, spoke to the impressive set of nominees who hailed from all areas of the county and represented a number of differing occupations.
After a buffet lunch (during which my good fortune had me seated next to the indomitable Mayor Jim Rynberg allowing us to swap a few stories) Camp Newaygo Director Jalisa Danhof delivered the keynote address. This was done from her seat on a pile of pillows, an action necessitated by her recent surgery. Being seated provided no obstacle for Ms. Danhof who seamlessly delivered a multimedia presentation entitled “Raising the Next Generation of Women”. Her message was crystal clear about the need to instill confidence and develop self esteem in the girls who will be the next generation of women who will lead.
A highlight of her talk was a video called “If Male Athletes Were Asked Questions Aimed at Female Athletes”. Look it up. Highly recommended for being not just enlightening but also seriously funny and it is most certainly available on youtube.
Then came the awards.
The first went to Mary Rangel who won the Emerging Leader Award for her advocacy work with migrant and farmworker families. Covering several of her Farmworker Appreciation Day events over the years is what introduced me to Mary. Her ability to draw on a number of resources to provide the many necessities for the long line of families who partake in the event was beyond admirable. Most impressive was how no matter how busy she is, (and believe me on that day Mary is one busy woman) she takes time to speak to people about the event and stress its importance in helping the farmworker community. And to advocate whenever possible for the people she serves.
Mary-“When I think of my accomplishments I always thank God first. My children, grandchildren, family and community are the reason I do what I do. With the help of Fremont Area Community Foundation, my role at DHD #10 I am able to do the projects, events for the Migrant Community. I look forward to working closely with my community for many years to come.”
White Cloud City Manager April Storms was next up as she received the Community Leader Award. Ms. Storms has been instrumental in creating a huge turnaround in the city that serves as our county seat. Forging productive relationships and bringing an innovative and creative thought process to municipal government, April has helped develop a vision for her city. The recent sesquicentennial celebration may have commemorated the town’s founding but it also showcased how far the city has come in recent years.
April: “It was truly an honor to receive the Newaygo County Community Leader of the Year Award. Just being nominated among this fantastic group of women in our county was very special. No one wins an award because they are great all by themselves. A great leader is made up of a leader with a fierce supportive team working towards common goals and who work collaboratively and tirelessly to get things done. It's a privilege to be a public servant and I'm so blessed to serve a community that I truly love.”
The final award for Influential Leader went to Newaygo City Police Chief Georgia Andres. Ms. Andres has been the face of law enforcement in the city of Newaygo since taking over the position in 2015. Prior to that she served as a sergeant on the city’s force for nearly 12 years. After taking an associate’s degree in law enforcement Georgia went on to obtain a Master’s Degree from Ferris State. During her tenure the department has developed many initiatives aimed at increasing safety in the community she serves.
Georgia: “It was one of the most humbling experiences I have ever had. I still believe Lori Tubergan-CLark is amazing and definitely is my most influential leader.”
And on a personal note...
Each of the three were worthy recipients as would be any of the 11 others who were honored on this day for their contributions to the community. Many of those in this group are familiar to me. I’ve known Abby Watkins since she came to the county as Emergency Services Director and while being well acquainted with Lori Tubergen Clark from her years as Superintendent of NC RESA we have also served together on a number of committees and boards and she is considered a friend. I first met Georgia Andres when she was still Sergeant and Chenoa Boss grew up across the street from Lil and I and we’ve known the family since moving here a quarter century ago. There were several others I likely have encountered once or twice (or even multiple times) along the way but memory being a prized personal commodity these days…
However, there was one woman in the group that I am most familiar with.
My daughter Lesly.
There are many praises I could sing of her personal courage, her skillful and creative hands, her acumen for landscaping design and her relentless support for the causes she believes in.
But of all the qualities my daughter possesses I must admit to a personal favorite.
An attribute I believe to be of the utmost importance to human beings.
I am proud to say she is at heart one of the kindest people I know.
And in case you were wondering…
She gets this from her Mother.
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