Leadership Montcalm

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A Training Program for the Emerging Community Leader

Mission: to identify and develop an informed, committed and diverse network of effective leaders.

Leadership Montcalm is a monthly one-day training program incorporating both critical issues education and skills training. This program has been designed by current local leaders to ensure the effectiveness of future local leaders.

The next Leadership Montcalm class is open for enrolling. Click here for the 2024-2025 Leadership Montcalm application.


For more information regarding upcoming Leadership Montcalm Series, please contact Michelle Nielsen at (616) 894-2350 or by email at leadershipmontcalm@gmail.com. 

Leadership Montcalm Begins 24th Year

Download the Leadership Montcalm PARTICIPANT BROCHURE and SPONSOR BROCHURE for additional information.

2022 sponsors include: MCC, Isabella Bank, Montcalm Care Network, MAISD, Commission on Aging,  Meijer, DHHS, Montcalm County Sheriff's Department, Eight CAP, IMSAFE, City of Stanton, Spectrum and Kelsey Hospitals, Village of Howard City, Sidney Township, United Way, Consumers Energy, Montcalm County, and Flat River Community Library.

Leadership Montcalm will kick-off its 24th year with a Kick-off Meet and Greet Event on Wednesday, September 11th. This year's group consists of about 25 participants from all areas of Montcalm County.

So, what is Leadership Montcalm?

Leslie Anne Wood, former executive director, describes it as''

  • A dynamic training program which incorporates critical current issues, education, leadership skill development and team building.
  • Designed by current local leaders for other current and emerging local leaders.
  • An opportunity to learn more about yourself and your leadership style
  • A chance to see and learn about various communities, businesses and the people of Montcalm County.
  • A networking opportunity that allows you to get to know and work with other Montcalm County leaders.
  • An in-depth look at local, township, county and state governmental structures.
  • Nine monthly (September - May), day-long sessions (8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) held at  various locations throughout the county. 
  • 20220909_145437.jpg    Friday, September 13th, the group plans to go on a county-wide community profile bus tour. The tour will stop at various locations and visit businesses and learn about some of the less know treasures of Montcalm County.

During the October session, participants will actively learn about public issues, communication and leadership styles. Presentations from various media personnel will be the focus for the first part of the day. The afternoon will be spent in a program called Color Me - based on the True Colors format. In this session, participants each learn what their particular leadership style is and how those styles impact their decisions, effectiveness and relationships within their organizations.

Remaining sessions will include the following topics:

  • Education, workforce readiness and team building  ''
  • Health care and human services
  • Government: township, city and county
  • Manufacturing, economic development, land use and housing
  • Public safety and the judicial system
  • Understanding the corrections process

The session culminates with each participant creating and sharing a presentation on an organization or critical issue that impacts the county and its people or resources. 

Finally, this is followed by a graduation ceremony where each successful participant is awarded a certificate of completion.  

It is interesting to note that many counties in Michigan have similar programs. Montcalm County's Leadership Montcalm is one of the strongest and most viable in the state. Leadership Montcalm welcomes anyone interested in Montcalm County or a leadership position – from club president to elected official – to improve leadership skills, study the issues affecting Montcalm County and learn about our community’s resources. Perhaps Leadership Montcalm’s greatest value is in meeting and networking with others who care about the future of Montcalm County.

To learn more about the program and to enroll for next year, please contact the executive director, Michelle Nielsen at (616) 894-2350 or leadershipmontcalm@gmail.com. You can also "Like" us on Facebook.

History of Leadership Montcalm''

Montcalm County MSU Extension received a grant from the Fund for Rural America in 1998. The purpose of the grant was to enhance rural economies through community development programs identified by the community.

Issue identification conducted with county focus groups assembled with the support of this grant identified the lack of leadership in the county as a need that must be addressed on a long-term basis. Leadership was identified as a key component of a healthy and productive community, and the group recommended the implementation of a sustained leadership development program to identify and develop a committed and diverse network of effective local leaders.

The Montcalm County MSU Extension office worked with a community coalition to develop and implement a leadership program which was named “Leadership Montcalm." The committee was composed of Sheri Harrell, Greenville Area Chamber of Commerce; Richard Heckman, MCC; Diana Jones, Michigan Works!; Carolyn Kane, United Way; Lisa Lund, HSPC; Franz Mogdis, Montcalm Alliance; Louis Morse, Cato Township; Don Smucker, Montcalm County MSU Extension; Roger Thelen, Central Montcalm Superintendent and Ivan Woodrow, Edmore Chamber of Commerce.

Leadership Montcalm I was launched on Sept. 21, 2000, with a kickoff reception at Maxfield’s Restaurant. Twenty class participants graduated on May 21, 2001 at a graduation banquet also held at Maxfield’s.

Don Smucker served as the program coordinator for its initial two years. Don recalls, “I think the first tour was done on a school bus from the ISD - may have done that two years. We then took the Greenville Transit System bus several years. One year when there was scheduling confusion with our Charter bus company, they all rode like lumber wagons!” Originally all sessions, except for the county-wide tour, met in the Doser Building at Montcalm Community College. Different meeting locations were gradually added giving variety and an opportunity for the participants to be familiar with different facilities in Montcalm County. 

A big step forward was made when the Greenville Area Community Foundation awarded a grant to MSU Extension enabling the Steering Committee to hire a part-time coordinator in 2002. Barb Luskin of Montcalm Behavioral Health, a graduate of Leadership Montcalm I, filled that role. Barb stepped down after Leadership Montcalm VI and Linda Ferguson, a graduate of Leadership Montcalm V, coordinated the program through Leadership Montcalm X. 

Upon Linda’s “retirement,” Brenda Greenhoe, a Leadership Montcalm IX graduate, was hired to be the Leadership Montcalm coordinator.''

Changes at MSU Extension required changes to Leadership Montcalm in 2011. No longer “sponsored” by MSU Extension, Leadership Montcalm became independent, changing the Steering Committee to the Executive Committee with the Executive Committee serving as the supervising body of  Leadership Montcalm. Montcalm Community College took on the role of fiduciary.

In June 2020, John Johansen stepped down as the Executive Committee Chairperson and Stephanie O’Dea was elected to the position. John turned over his big binder of Leadership Montcalm agendas, evaluations, and notes.

Leadership Montcalm survives and thrives through the support of its graduates and community sponsors who provide funding to support the program and keep the tuition cost low. Leadership Montcalm now has more than 467 graduates.

Click here to see a list of Alumni from 2001 to 2024.

Leadership Montcalm Executive Committee''

Michelle Nielsen - Executive Director

Stephanie O'Dea, Executive Committee Chairperson - K-12 Education Policy Advisor, Governor Gretchen Whitmer

Carol Pettengill - Stafford Media Solutions (retired)   

Ben Wood - Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center/The Right Place

Jessica Higley - DHHS

Emily Dowd - Corewell Health

Heather Feazel - City of Greenville

Kristen Griffes - SFPE (Society of Fire Protection Engineers)

Amanda Lee - Montcalm Area Reading Council

Rechelle Porter - Montcalm County

Teresa Boyer - Montcalm Area Intermediate School District


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