Michigan State University’s newest class of Michigan Political Leadership Program, or MPLP, Fellows hail from communities large and small, with diverse backgrounds in nonprofits, businesses, public service and law enforcement.
Three of the MPLP’s 24-member Class of 2020 are military veterans — one from the U.S. Navy, one from the U.S. Army and another with service in the U.S. Marines.
“This is a class with experience in manufacturing, in law, in work as legislative aides or as executive staff to congressional, legislative and city leaders,” said Matt Grossmann, director of MSU’s Institute for Public Policy and Social Research, or IPPSR.
One newly selected MPLP Fellow is a former mayor of Albion, and the community’s youngest mayor on record, he added.
MPLP trains 24 specially selected Michigan citizens — equal numbers of men and women from communities across the state, who spend 10 months learning about how to govern, lead in public service and run for elected office.
Currently 17 MPLP alumni serve in the Michigan House and Senate. Three serve on statewide courts and Jocelyn Benson is Michigan’s current secretary of state. Scores more hold offices at the township, city, county, school board and precinct levels. MPLP alumni also lead in nonprofit and for-profit organizations and tribal governing bodies.
MPLP makes its campus home at IPPSR, which specializes in public policy, political leadership and survey research, as a unit of MSU’s College of Social Science.
This year’s Fellows were publicly named Jan. 3.
“We continue to be impressed by MPLP applicants and by our graduating MPLP Fellows,” said Steve Tobocman, MPLP co-director who is a former House majority floor leader. He is a national leader in immigrant economic development.
As co-director he works alongside Susy Avery, a former Republican Party director and executive in the administration of Republican Gov. John Engler. She has served as director of the Michigan Women’s Commission and of State Travel and Tourism.
The new MPLP class meets together for the first time in late February, and spends a weekend each month in specialized curriculum that takes them through campaign, organization and budget workshops and skill-building exercises.
“Our media weekend is one of the most popular of the year,” said Avery. “Fellows write and record a television advertisement, then stand before colleagues and experts who critique their effort. That’s hands-on learning that’s practice and practical,” she said.
Among the more than 600 MPLP alumni, at least half are currently serving or have served in elected or appointed offices.
2020 MPLP Fellows are:
Laurel Abraham, of East Grand Rapids, director of development for the Liberty Justice Center, a nonprofit litigation firm. She sits on the board of the Grand Rapids chapter of America’s Future Foundation.
Micah Babcock, of East Lansing, director of government operations for the Small Business Association of Michigan (SBAM). He’s an appointee to the 2020 U.S. Census Complete Count Committee.
Amanda Brand, of Rockford, who manages sales and marketing for MINDSCAPE, a family-owned website development firm. She is a “40 under 40 Business Leaders in Grand Rapids” alum and a former member of the Kent County Housing Commission.
Garrett Brown, of Albion, chief of staff to state Sen. Adam Hollier, D-Detroit. He is a former Albion mayor, the youngest mayor on record in the city’s history.
Robert Carlin, of Owosso, resource manager with US Ecology and Shiawassee County grain farmer. He is currently a Shiawasssee County Farm Bureau Board director.
Ponce Clay, of Detroit, founder and principal of The Clay Group, LLC, a professional services company. An attorney, he is a past chair of the Detroit Board of Ethics and a retired member of the U.S. Navy.
Scott Czasak, of Macomb, working in quality control for the U.S. Census Bureau in Macomb County and a former legislative aide in the U.S. Congress and Michigan House. He is a past membership chair of the Macomb County Republican Party and was a past chair of the Macomb Young Republicans.
Erin Gianapoulos, of Detroit, retired U.S. Marine Corps officer and in her second year at Wayne State University Law School. She serves on the Habitat for Humanity Detroit board of directors.
Joe Greene, of Rochester, legislative aide working for State Rep. Andrea Schroeder, R-Independence Township. He’s served as communications director and executive director of Kappa Alpha Pi Prelaw Professional Fraternity.
Bilal Hammoud, Dearborn Heights, public engagement associate for the Michigan Department of State, the first Arab-American to work in the agency’s executive office. He has worked as project manager in Cheboygan, leading efforts on the Michigan Main Street Project.
Mary Catherine Hannah, of Harbor Springs, Executive Director for two senior living properties in Presbyterian Villages of Michigan. She is on the Executive Committee for the Little Traverse Bay Housing Partnership and on the Harbor Springs City Planning Commission.
Lindsay Kronemeyer, of Dorr, a commercial risk advisor and chair of Kent County Young Republicans. She is also a member of the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce Workforce Development Committee.
Ernestine Lyons, of Detroit, is a business opportunity coordinator for Detroit and serves on the Harper Woods Planning Committee. Her small business, Linglobal, focuses on international languages and travel.
Jennifer Miles, of Rochester Hills, lieutenant in the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office and the first female operator on the Oakland County SWAT Team.
Mitchell Moore, of Lansing, legislative aide to state Rep. Michael Webber, R-Rochester Hills. He has served as an intern with the U.S. Department of State, working at the U.S. Embassy in Lusaka, Zambia in Africa.
Todd Mutchler, of Northville, director of Northville Township public safety and township manager. He is a graduate of the Federal Bureau of Investigation National Academy.
E’yandra Otis, of Detroit, works in community relations for Detroit City Council member Roy McCalister, Jr. He also is an elected precinct delegate.
Mariah Phelps, of Kalamazoo, legislative director with state Rep, Jim Haadsma, D-Battle Creek. She previously worked with the U.S. Department of State in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research.
Martha Potere, of Detroit, senior small business strategy manager for the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation. She also serves on her neighborhood board.
Anuja Rajendra, of Ann Arbor, founder of BollyFit, a health and fitness provider aimed at businesses and individuals. She ran for state Senate in 2018 in a contested, three-way primary election.
Zach Rich, of Farmington Hills, caseworker for U.S. Rep. Haley Stevens, D-Michigan. He is a former assistant township manager in Royal Oak Township and a deputy treasurer in Oakland County. He is a member of the Farmington Public Schools Board of Education.
Madeline Watts, of Troy, policy advisor for the Michigan Senate Majority Policy Office. She covers insurance and banking, veterans’ affairs and related state budgets. She’s previously held legislative aide and legislative director positions in the Michigan House.
Donald Whitley, of Farmington Hills, a labor relations representative with the Michigan Department of Civil Service Commission. He previously served on the UAW Local 6000 Executive Board and chaired the Metro Labor Management Team. He is a U.S. Army veteran.
Amanda Wright, of Metamora, chief of staff for Sen. Kevin Daley, R-Lum. She has previously worked in legislative staff positions in the state House and Michigan Senate.