30 And Under

30 And Under

In December, 2016 Jackson Magazine selected our eighth class of 30 and Under. Many of them live or work in Jackson, others in outlying communities in a wide range of duties from teachers to code enforcers. The individuals presented below are shining examples of the future - or, maybe more accurately, the start of the present - in Jackson leadership.

Looking to Next Year

We're always looking for individuals to feature in Jackson Magazine, whether they're under 30 or not. If you have a suggestion for our next 30 and Under, or even an outstanding individual serving the Jackson community, we'd love to hear from you. Contact us today with your story idea!

2016 - 30 and Under Winners

Thomas Berkemeier

Thomas Berkemeier

Gross, Puckey, Gruel, & Roof, P.C. / Accountant

Thomas Berkemeier has spent his entire life, with the exception of five years at the University of Dayton (Ohio) earning his Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting, living, working, and volunteering in Jackson.

“I was born and raised here,” the 26-year-old accountant at Gross, Puckey, Gruel, & Roof (GPGR) said.

For Berkemeier, a devoted Catholic who grew up attending Queen of the Miraculous Medal Parish, that meant spending his high school years at Lumen Christi. It was there that Berkemeier discovered his love of accounting.

“When I was at Lumen Christi, I took an accounting course, and I really enjoyed it. The teacher, Mr. Crowley, encouraged me to pursue it further,” he said. “And I’ve always been good at math.”

It took some time, however, after college to find an accounting job. Berkemeier took a brief detour into medical care, working at Bethany Care Home and Hospice. He said that while working in hospice wasn’t his ultimate career goal, he did learn valuable skills that have translated to his work at GPGR.

Elli Blonde

Elli Blonde

American 1 Credit Union / Branch Manager Trainee

Don’t expect to find Elli Blonde reading get-rich-quick books anytime soon.

“There’s no real secret to success,” the 21-year-old said. “It’s just working hard and working smart. I grew up on a farm, so I’ve been working my whole life.”

That work ethic has taken Blonde a long way. She started taking dual-enrollment classes at Jackson College when she was 14. At the moment, her degree is on pause so she can focus on her professional development. She is currently in training to become a branch manager at American 1 Credit Union, after working for 18 months as the marketing specialist for the Jackson branch. This move into finance wasn’t planned.

“I knew I wanted to get into business,” she said. “This just happened to be what I’m good at.”

Blonde said this new role will find her, “overseeing account specialists and member service specialists and the entire branch operation.” And while overseeing a branch is a big responsibility for someone as young as Blonde, she has the leadership experience to meet the challenge head on.

Dr. Brandon Cooley

Dr. Brandon Cooley

Prolific Family Chiropractic / Owner

As the owner and currently sole employee of the new Prolific Family Chiropractic in Jackson, Dr. Brandon Cooley does everything.

He performs patient care; handles advertising and marketing, billing, and building maintenance; schedules appointments, and manages the practice’s website and social media content. He also is a Jackson College adjunct professor of anatomy and physiology.

“I love health and wellness,” Dr. Cooley, 30, said, “whether it’s doing chiropractic adjustments for my patients, working out, participating in sports, or teaching.”

Dr. Cooley earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Adrian College, and then graduated from the Palmer College of Chiropractic. While studying at Palmer, Dr. Cooley cared for members of the U.S. military, which shaped his current practice.

Carrie Heider Grant

Carrie Heider Grant

Nonprofit Network / Program Coordinator

While a student at Spring Arbor University, Carrie Heider Grant studied abroad in Uganda and traveled to Nicaragua as a member of a coalition of college students commissioned by the Council of Protestant Churches of Nicaragua.

With a goal of helping others, solving problems and fixing the world, Heider Grant is fulfilling her dream of working in the nonprofit sector where she feels inspired every day. “I feel that I’m contributing to the greater good by doing good work and building the capacity of nonprofit organizations to provide services that impact as many lives as possible,” she said.

A magna cum laude graduate of SAU and winner of the English Departmental Honors award, Heider Grant develops the Nonprofit Network’s training programs, managing over 80 onsite workshops annually for employees of other nonprofits.

Valerie Jurasek

Valerie Jurasek

inVentiv Health Clinical / Senior Global Safety & Pharmacovigilance Associate

A graduate of the University of Michigan with a major in brain behavior and cognitive science, Valerie Jurasek found the perfect match for her skills while working with people she likes and living in a community she enjoys.

Jurasek works in Safety and Pharmacovigilance at inVentiv Health Clinical in Ann Arbor. The company is a leading global supplier of drug development services for pharmaceutical, biotechnology, generic drug, and medical device companies.

The recipient of inVentiv’s Extra Effort award in 2014 and 2016, Jurasek reviews, enters, and validates adverse event data in reports from clinical trial sites, health care professionals and consumers. The reports, which are submitted to regulatory authorities worldwide, including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, are pivotal for activities related to the detection, assessment, understanding, and prevention of adverse events and help ensure the ongoing safety of medicinal products.

Danielle McGee

Danielle McGee

Rehmann / Tax Manager

As a tax manager at Rehmann in Jackson, Danielle McGee works year-round with hundreds of individuals, businesses and non-profit organizations on their tax planning and compliance. Many of her clients are in the “high net worth” category, with complicated tax returns.

Still, she said that mentoring others, especially younger women new to the accounting world, is some of her most important work.

“It’s difficult to be a working parent in accounting, especially in tax season,” McGee, 30, who is a certified public accountant (CPA), said. “I try to explain how you can manage that. It’s certainly possible to be a mom who is involved at home, at work, and in the community.”

McGee and her husband, Tim, have a 5-year-old daughter, Maeve. Their son, Flynn, passed away as an infant in 2015.

Amberlee Pickering

Amberlee Pickering

Executive Wealth Management / Executive Assistant

Jackson County native Amberlee Pickering moved up from being the receptionist at the Barker Weber Insurance Agency (which she joined after high school, in 2011), to become the executive assistant for the agency’s financial side, Executive Wealth Management (EWM), in 2012.

“Amberlee essentially runs our practice,” said Daniel Weaver, Registered Investment Advisor at EWM. “She answers every phone call, handles the vast majority of client requests and changes, and treats every customer with respect. If there is a problem, she’s the one finding, developing and implementing a solution. I wish I could have 20 more Amberlees working here.”

Pickering recently completed an Associate of Science degree, in Business Administration and Management, from Baker College. She will start work on a Bachelor of Arts degree in January.

Last October, she earned a Kaplan Financial Series 6 securities license. She can now sell investment products such as mutual funds, variable annuities and unit investment trusts. Down the road, she has her eye on additional securities licenses, to broaden her knowledge of the investment industry and better support her employer.

Heather Sarles

Heather Sarles

Baker College / Admissions Advisor

Heather Sarles has a lot going on. The 26 year old is an admissions advisor at Baker College, a student pursuing a master of business administration in human resources management through Baker College Center for Graduate Studies, a community volunteer and a soon-to-be bride planning her wedding.

In her role as admissions advisor, Sarles recruits high school students and adults. She participates in college application week to help graduating seniors, attends off-campus college fairs, assists in planning on-campus fairs and open houses, and coordinates campus tours for groups of 60 to 250 students from 12 area high schools. Once enrolled, she advises students on courses they need to achieve their goals. Sarles also organizes events, trains new associate advisors, and handles social media and public relations.

She has earned many Quarterly Excellence and Top 15 System Recruiter awards from Baker College and earning the college’s Senior Star Recruiter designation.

Jamie Vandenburgh

Jamie Vandenburgh

Western Middle School / Science Teacher

Jamie Vandenburgh, 29, balances two careers while never dropping the ball. As a science teacher, she strives to reach all her students through creative classroom lessons, grants she receives to enhance those lessons and help outside the classroom.

“Jamie is dedicated to her profession, but, more importantly, she connects well with her students and colleagues,” said Western Middle School principal Ryan Tripp. “She is always looking to improve her craft and knowledge and is frequently the first to try new ideas.”

Vandenburgh holds a Master of Arts degree in teaching and curriculum and a Michigan K-12 Administrators Certificate from Michigan State University. She developed and teaches an engineering class that’s part of the school’s curriculum. The class includes hands-on activities, guest engineers as speakers, and a field trip to Baker College’s engineering school.

A former standout pitcher at Hillsdale College and Michigan Center High School (where she holds school records), Vandenburgh is Jackson College’s head softball coach and is the go-to person for her Jets team.

Angela Wetherby

Angela Wetherby

Inosencio & Fisk, PLLC / Associate Attorney

Angela Wetherby chose a career in law to help others. A Lumen Christi Catholic High School valedictorian, University of Michigan high honors graduate, and Michigan State University College of Law cum laude graduate, she’s dedicated to her clients and community.

While attending law school, Wetherby worked for Inosencio & Fisk during summer and school breaks and was immediately hired when she graduated. “As a summer law clerk she proved herself not only intelligent and well-spoken, but a natural fit with our office dynamic,” said Bruce Inosencio, the law firm’s founding partner.

Wetherby, 29, works on cases involving real estate, business law, construction, trusts and estate planning. She conducts extensive legal research and analysis, drafts legal documents and appears on behalf of clients in courts throughout Michigan. She looks out for the best interests of her clients and lets them know their options.

Amy Williams

Amy Williams

American 1 Credit Union / Payment Systems Manager

Many 30 and Under honorees say they have little downtime, and Amy Williams is no exception.

“I don’t really have a whole lot of free time,” the 25-year-old Jackson native said. “But, when I do, I work a lot with my horses at home.”

Williams has been studying horses for almost as long as she’s been working at American 1 Credit Union, where she currently serves as Jackson’s Payment Systems Manager. In high school, she participated in a co-op program which allowed her to work half the day at American 1, scanning documents and doing other small projects, and spend the other half of the day studying at Jackson High School.

After studying business management and accounting for two years at Jackson College, Williams transferred to the University of Findlay (Ohio), and her interest in business coalesced with her interest in horses, as she double majored in Equine Business Management and Equestrian Studies and minored in Marketing.

Josh Winkel

Josh Winkel

] Recovery Technology / Case Worker

Josh Winkel is a natural at bringing people together for fun and fellowship, whether at work or at church. The 24 year old is a case manager at Recovery Technology in Jackson, an outpatient mental health provider; and he runs a youth ministry at Brookside United Methodist Church, also in Jackson. Both places have benefitted from the gregarious Jackson resident’s knack for coordinating social mixers.

“Life is more meaningful when we can share experiences, get to know each other on a personal level, and help each other,” said Winkel.

Church activities planned by Winkel include Splash into School, an event designed to bring church families together for a final day of summer fun before students returned to school. The event, which attracted about 100 participants of all ages, featured kiddie pools, water balloon catapults and of course, slip and slide.

“It was an opportunity for entire families to come together and make memories on a hot summer day,” said Winkel, who has also planned mission trips to Detroit, teen retreats, and much more for Brookside, where he’s served as youth minister for five years.

2015 - 30 and Under Winners

Jessica Bemer

Jessica Bemer

Center for Family Health/LifeWays / Access Clinician

Jessica Bemer is dedicated to lifting people’s spirits. That’s good news for the folks she serves as access clinician at the Center for Family Health, a local, independent federally qualified health center. Bemer is employed by LifeWays Community Mental Health, a community mental health agency serving Jackson and Hillsdale counties.

“Jessica has a natural ability to see the good in all people, to build on their strengths, to lift their spirits and find creative solutions to problems,” said LifeWays Director of Access Sarah Sabin. “She demonstrates the true essence of social work.”

As an access clinician, Bemer ensures integrated health care for patients and primary care physicians, including assessing patients’ eligibility for services, connecting patients with vital community resources, and facilitating psychiatric consultations for at-need patients. She also expanded LifeWays Integrated Network of Care (LINC) to six primary care physician offices in Hillsdale, providing needed services to hundreds of new patients.

Karen Bunnell

Karen Bunnell

Barker Weber Insurance Agency / Group Benefits Administrator & Account Executive

In less than two years, Karen Bunnell has become an expert in the health care industry for the Employee Benefits Department at Barker Weber Insurance Agency.

“Karen has shown the aptitude and motivation to learn and help in ways I rarely see,” said Dan Weaver, President and Account Executive. “She has studied vigorously to learn all about the health industry and is driven to be considered an expert at what she does.”

Bunnell, 27, quotes health care, dental, vision, disability and life insurance for employee groups and individuals, handles enrollments/disenrollments, billing, claims and plan administration. “My favorite part of my job is always learning something new,” said Bunnell, who successfully passes tests for each insurance company and Medicare gap policy offered through Barker Weber.

Jason Butterfield

Jason Butterfield

Jack V. Butterfield Company / Vice President

After graduating from Grand Valley State University with a bachelor’s degree in finance and working in Grand Rapids as an investment advisor for two years, Jason Butterfield returned to his roots.

In 2009, he became the fourth generation to work at Jack V. Butterfield Investment Company. “I started learning about investing when I was 5 years old and my father bought Disney stock,” Butterfield said. “He told me we were part owners of Disney and explained investing to me.”

As a certified financial planner, the 30-year-old Butterfield now enjoys helping individuals, families and businesses put together plans to meet their future financial goals. He meets daily with clients and prospective clients, discusses their concerns, reviews their accounts and adjusts their portfolios.

Matt Eckler

Matt Eckler

Automated Logistics Systems / Director of Business Development

When Matt Eckler’s boss told him: “Make decisions as if it were your own business,” he unleashed a tiger. Eckler, who was hired as a logistics coordinator at Automated Logistics Systems, pounced on the opportunity, and the dramatic results have not only spurred company growth, they clinched the 29 year old’s standing as a 30 and Under award recipient.

“From day one, our president asked me to run the business like it was my own. This appealed to my entrepreneurial spirit,” said Eckler, who now serves as director of business development. Automated Logistics Systems, 3517 Scheele Dr., is a family owned, third-party logistics provider.

Within the first three months of being hired, Eckler became an account manager, handling the company’s largest customer. “Over the next two years, I entrenched myself in our business, learning all aspects of customer and carrier sales, rate negotiation, and more,” said Eckler, a Jackson Leadership Academy graduate. He has a bachelor’s degree in supply chain management from Michigan State University.

Andrea Ericksen

Andrea Ericksen

Community Vibrations / President

Andrea Ericksen founded Community Vibrations, a one-of-a-kind organic food cooperative that makes local, organic and sustainable food more accessible and affordable for the Jackson community.

Some 20 families in the co-op buy organic food from eight member farms. “We’re always accepting new sustainable farms and co-op members,” said Ericksen, who is dedicated to growing the business, which makes buying local organic foods convenient. “You can order while sitting on your couch and pick up your order in one location,” she said.

To help member families save money, Ericksen developed a spreadsheet that calculates their grocery bills and tracks spending. She also works with bulk organic food sellers to buy off-season produce.

Mary C. Ericson

Mary C. Ericson

Bethany Hospice / Director of Hospice

For Mary Ericson, serving as director of Bethany Hospice isn’t just a job – it’s a calling.

“Every time someone asks me what I do for a living, I can’t help but smile. I’m blessed to have the opportunity to meet the needs of men and women in their last days,” said Ericson, who interviews and trains new employees, meets with families and clinical teams, admits new residents, and provides clinical, emotional and spiritual care. Bethany Hospice is a faith-based, non-profit, residential facility for the terminally ill and is part of the larger organization, Bethany Care Home & Hospice.

“Mary is simply awesome,” said Pam Dill, her supervisor and the administrator of Bethany Care Home and Hospice. “She has a servant heart that is overflowing with kindness and love. Her dedication and creative solutions always bring joy to others.”

One shining example of that sense of devotion occurred about a year ago, when Ericson coordinated several events for a resident with brain cancer. “I really wanted to help her make the most of her last days,” said Ericson, who joined with Bethany staff and residents in taking the woman to a movie and out for ice cream. She also coordinated a wig party for her.

Emily Garcia

Emily Garcia

Garcia Clinical Laboratory / Account Executive

As an Account Executive at Garcia Clinical Laboratory, Emily Garcia generates over 30 infectious disease reports a week for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. She also completes similar reports for 36 states the company does business with.

While in high school and on summer breaks from Ball State University (Indiana), where she earned a bachelor’s degree, Garcia worked in all areas of the laboratory. “It gave me a perspective about how all the departments work together to get things done,” she said.

Laboratory Manager Rachelle Maurer said, “Emily is incredibly hard working and detail-oriented. She has great ideas and is never afraid to suggest better ways of doing things.”

Kristin Guise

Kristin Guise

LifeWays / Case Management Specialist

Kristin Guise, a case management specialist for LifeWays Community Mental Health, has a knack for listening to others, reaching compromises and finding creative solutions. These skills not only have empowered her clients and co-workers at the agency, they’ve won the admiration of several fans, who nominated Guise for the 30 and Under award.

“Kristin is constantly thinking of ways we can streamline processes. She is very passionate and knowledgeable about her work,” said Caitlin Yanakeff, director of outpatient services at LifeWays, which serves Jackson and Hillsdale counties. “There have been many times I’ve asked Kristin to be in charge when I’m out of the office, because I trust her clinical skills and know she will always take a person-centered approach.”

Guise says she naturally gravitates towards listening to others’ ideas and reaching compromises. “While I bring experience and knowledge from school and work, I know that I don’t have all the answers. That’s why I always strive to learn from those around me and come up with solutions that reflect everyone’s input,” said the 28 year old, who has worked at LifeWays for three years and has a master’s in social work from Michigan State University.

John Hays

John Hays

Judicial Services Group / Vice President

Thinking outside the box and maintaining a positive attitude are among traits that have people singing the praises of John Hays, vice president of Judicial Services Group. The JSG provides offender monitoring, alcohol testing, and other services for Michigan Courts and law enforcement agencies, including Jackson.

“John has a can-do mindset,” said JSG President Jeff Kirkpatrick. “His quick rise to vice president came about because he goes above and beyond what is expected, is creative, and takes initiative to deliver services our customers need."

In his day-to-day operations, Hays supervises a staff of over 20, including court officers, surety agents, process servers, collection agents and accountants. He also supervises an electronic offender monitoring program for court-ordered tethers.

Beth James

Beth James

Willis & Machnik Financial Services / Financial Assistant

Beth James excels in her role at Willis & Machnik, said Managing Partner Dan Machnik. “She answers every phone call with a smile. She helps solve client issues, helps our advisors manage their day-to-day activities and is the go-to person for the logistics necessary to make the complex office operations of a wealth management firm possible.”

James, 23, also is responsible for client account management, positive client relationships, business development and marketing. She thinks outside the box to find new ways to help clients access their online accounts and design newsletters and ads that attract the attention of clients and potential clients. “I want every piece of communication to have a personal touch,” she said.

James has a gift for wanting to help others. An interest in learning law to help people navigate the court system inspired her to earn a paralegal degree. “Though I’m no longer studying legal, I still use those skills on a daily basis,” said James, who is now pursuing a bachelor’s degree in business management from Baker College. “My role with Willis & Machnik brings new experiences, broader education, and continues to enhance my business and personal connections as well.”

Clay McAndrews

Clay McAndrews

Consumers Energy / Graphic Designer

Clay McAndrews was named the “Most Artsy-Fartsy” by his graduating class at Western High School. A member of the National Art Honor Society, he pursued his creative talents at Central Michigan University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in fine arts with a focus on graphic design. His fraternity, Sigma Chi, named him the most outstanding graduate in Michigan in 2013.

After graduating, McAndrews began an internship at Consumers Energy, where his exceptional performance as a graphic designer and his people skills led to a full-time position.

“Clay not only is an outstanding professional but also is a natural born leader,” said Ron Mason, Manager of Creative and Production Services for the utility. “He has a deep commitment for his work and his fellow employees and fosters a great team attitude.”

Candice Robinson

Candice Robinson

Jackson County Medical Care Facility / Nursing Administrative Assistant

Candice Robinson, a nursing administrative assistant at the Jackson County Medical Care Facility, is driven to make a positive difference at work and in the community at large.

“I love helping others. Being able to support my family in the process is a bonus,” said Robinson, whose responsibilities at work include providing support in the planning, organizing and directing of the overall operations of the nursing staff, performing secretarial duties and administrative follow-up. She has an associate’s degree as a medical administrative assistant from Baker College.

“Candice is a driven and giving woman,” said Anna Dancy, human resources director at the Jackson County Medical Care Facility. “Her passion and commitment not only benefit us here, they benefit the whole community. She’s even starting her own non-profit organization dedicated to reducing violence and improving the quality of life for all Jackson residents.”

Thomas Rooney

Thomas Rooney

Rooney’s Sewer & Drain Cleaning, LLC / Owner, Operator

When Thomas Rooney inherited his father’s business at the tender age of 20 in 2008, Rooney’s Sewer & Drain Cleaning was a small, one-man, one-truck operation. But the Jackson resident had big plans.

“I made it my goal to expand and improve the business. I saw its potential for growth,” said Rooney, who has a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Sienna Heights University.

The ambitious 27 year old hired new employees, purchased additional vehicles and equipment, acquired a local competitor and invested in new technology. “I also continue to attend industry conferences and trainings to keep up to date on the latest trends,” said Rooney, owner and operator of the business, located at 3216 Francis.

Cody Shepherd

Cody Shepherd

Edwards Machining Inc. / Quality Manager

From high school co-op student to quality manager at a major machining company, Cody Shepherd has never shied away from hard work or responsibility. And his work ethic has reaped award-winning dividends.

“I started my career in manufacturing doing a co-op program through high school. Once my employer found out I could read blueprints and use the gauging required to inspect parts, he offered me a job out of high school – and I ran with it!” said Shepherd.

He ultimately left that job to accept a position at Edwards Machining, where he works today. He quickly advanced, moving up from quality inspector to quality manager. “Most of what I’ve learned has been self-taught and has taken a lot of initiative, hard work and dedication,” he said. Edwards Machining, 2335 Research Dr., is a manufacturer of aerospace and industrial components.