Traverse City News and Events

The (Many) New Faces Of Local Leadership

By Craig Manning | Dec. 3, 2023

The mayor, city manager, county sheriff, city police chief, leaders of several major healthcare organizations, and head of the biggest grocery co-op in Michigan. They're just a few of the local leadership roles that have changed hands in 2023. The Ticker talks with six new leaders about the biggest challenges their offices or organizations are facing and what they’re looking to most.

Sarah Christensen, general manager, Oryana
Who: Formerly the 18-year CEO of GreenTree Co-op Market in Mt. Pleasant, Christensen is taking over leadership of Oryana from Steve Nance, who served as general manager for 14 years. She likens being chosen as Oryana’s new GM to “being drafted to my favorite sports team,” noting: “I’ve been a fan for so long.”

Biggest challenge: “I believe the biggest challenge in the upcoming year is to continue finding a way to align values and value, as operating costs and product costs continue to rise. We'll need to explore ways to be more efficient without compromising the service standard that sets us apart.”

Looking forward to: “I'm excited about getting to know and working with the very talented individuals who have made Oryana what it is today – which is to say, the largest food co-op in Michigan and the 16th largest in the country. I'm also looking forward to building relationships with the local farmers and producers that Oryana collaborates with. And as a shopper, I'm excited about having regular access to the bacon varieties at Oryana West and the Maple Lattes at 10th Street!”

Chad Lindsey, executive director, City Opera House
Who: Lindsey was announced in July as the successor of longtime City Opera House Executive Director Diana Baribeau. Speaking about his background, Lindsey lists everything from a stint as a “reluctant boy band member on tour in Europe” to founding a theater company in New York City and leading it for more than a decade. Most recently, Lindsey directed a mixed-use housing and theater arts center in Brooklyn, New York on behalf of the Entertainment Community Fund.

Biggest challenge: “Finding new and unique ways to celebrate our vibrant community using this historic building. Now that the City Opera House is no longer in a management agreement with long-time partner Wharton Center, we are standing on our own two feet and have the amazing challenge of welcoming new local supporters, sponsors, and revenue streams that will allow us to continue and reinvent our programming.”

Looking forward to: “I’m excited to grow our staff. We’re a dedicated but bare-bones crew here, and I'm excited to invest in a sustainable future for City Opera House. I’m pulling together a surprising and unique season for 2024-25, and can’t wait to see how the talented musicians, comedians, dancers, films and novel community events bring Front Street to life!”

Lindsay McLaughlin, executive director, Traverse City Track Club (TCTC)
Who: McLaughlin stepped into the TCTC leadership role this past Monday, becoming just the third person to hold that job. She’s a relative newcomer to the area, having relocated her family in January. Previously, McLaughlin worked as outreach director for a United States senator, practiced law as a health industry attorney, and held the inaugural directorship of “a new bureau at the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services that works to reimagine behavioral health services for youth and their families in our state.”

Biggest challenge: “I think we are seeing a shift in running clubs nationwide after the pandemic. In our new remote-work-dominated world, it is important to re-evaluate how to make being a member of TCTC meaningful for a wide array of folks, to promote getting outside to run and walk together. I’ll be focused on listening to ways my fellow members and non-members alike think we can make the club more inclusive and engaging for them.”

Looking forward to: “I look forward to continuing TCTC’s proud tradition of community support and charitable giving, as well true inclusivity for folks of all abilities and in all stages of their running journeys. And of course, I can’t wait for the Bayshore Marathon!”

Matthew Richmond, chief of police, Traverse City Police Department (TCPD)
Who: Richmond became interim police chief in July, following the retirement of former chief Jeff O’Brien, and was elevated to permanent status in October. He’s been with TCPD since 2004, serving over the years as a detective, sergeant, detective sergeant, lieutenant, and most recently, captain of patrol services.

Biggest challenge: “Recruitment in law enforcement has been a national issue for many years now. We currently have the authority to hire three sworn officers – two to fill recent retirements and the third to fill a retirement planned for March 1, 2024. But this is the first time that I can remember here in Traverse City that we haven’t been able to fill vacant positions with candidates with prior law enforcement experience.”

Looking forward to: “Our department's transition. Our command staff has completely changed due to recent retirements, and the overall age of our department is becoming younger. Change can be difficult and uncomfortable, but at the same time, can be a great thing for an organization. The saying ‘because that’s the way we have always done it’ only goes so far.  Having people in different positions and having younger officers brings new perspectives – and hopefully, many new innovative ideas to continue serving the citizens of Traverse City with excellence.”

Amy Shamroe, mayor, City of Traverse City
Who: A member of the city commission for eight years – with the last six spent as second-in-command mayor pro tem – Shamroe was elected mayor of the City of Traverse City last month. She is the first woman elected as Traverse City’s mayor since Linda Smyka held the role from 2003 to 2007.

Biggest challenge: “Communication. As we move forward with major projects, new leadership in key city roles, and major economic decisions in the next couple years, we have to communicate ideas to the public better than we have in the past. We cannot expect the average city resident to read 200-plus-page packets or totally understand jargon-filled memos. Our staff are experts, often with degrees in their respective fields. They start deeper on a topic than the average person, so we need to zoom out to ensure we are presenting in ways most people can understand.”

Looking forward to: “I am really looking forward to Liz Vogel taking the role of city manager. After the interview process and subsequent meetings, I know Liz is coming to the position with a lot of enthusiasm and fresh ideas that keep moving Traverse City in the right direction.”

Michael Shea, sheriff, Grand Traverse County Sheriff’s Office
Who: Born and raised in Traverse City – he’s a 1982 Traverse City Central alum – Shea spent the better part of two decades working in the agriculture industry before pivoting to law enforcement in 2005. Ever since, he says he’s been chasing the position of sheriff, under the premise “that change must come from the top down.” Shea was promoted to undersheriff of the department in 2018, and was named sheriff this past August after his predecessor, Tom Bensley, retired.

Biggest challenge: “Recruiting and retention remain a challenge, with regaining public trust being equally important.”

Looking forward to: “Working with our community partners to improve mental health services for our employees, the citizens, and our inmates. I also look forward to working with our newly-appointed command staff to foster a culture of positivity and just doing the right thing. This includes enhancing our recruiting and retention efforts, officer wellbeing, and jail services. I am very excited about strengthening the bond between law enforcement and our community through organizations such as Advocates and Leaders for Police and Community Trust (ALPACT). Also, the promotion of proactive/investigative police work to continue to provide the level of police services our community has come to expect.”

More to come:
Several other leadership roles will be changing hands in the weeks and months to come. Elizabeth Vogel will take the helm as city manager on January 2, and Anne Pagano will step into the role of city engineer six days later. Meanwhile, organizations like Munson Medical Center, Grand Traverse Pavilions, and Grand Traverse County Road Commission all have interim leaders and will likely see new hires in the New Year.

It’s not just Grand Traverse County that’s seeing shakeups, either: Leelanau County is looking for a new planner after the retirement of 35-year veteran Trudy Galla, and McLaren Northern Michigan hospital in Petoskey recently hired Gar Atchison as its new president and CEO.


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