Meet the 2023 Board Candidates

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There are 3 open seats on the Oryana Board of Directors. We currently have 7 candidates running for the open positions. Online voting will start soon. Paper ballots will also available. All votes will be totaled at the general ownership meeting on April 20 and the winners announced immediately.

The candidates, presented in alphabetical order, have each responded to the following questions.

  1. Why are you interested in serving on the Board of Oryana? 
  2. How do your values align with that of Oryana?
  3. What strengths would you bring to your role as a director on the board?
  4. What are some of the most significant challenges and opportunities you see facing Oryana?
  5. How would you represent the owners as a director of the board?

Cy Agley

Up for re-election
What a first term it has been! Embattled with the pandemic, my first three-years was anything but ordinary; from being elected in the first virtual GOM to a fully digital onboarding and not meeting any of my fellow board members in-person until the start of my second year. I took my first two-years to be a sponge and absorb as much as I could about policy governance, board dynamics, and what it truly means to be a servant leader. My third year, I quickly jumped at the leadership opportunity to join the Executive Committee as Treasurer. Our work is simply just getting started and I’m eager to apply the lessons of my first term as we begin to embark on a journey fueled by incoming challenges and opportunities. If there’s anything that the pandemic taught us, it is that one should expect the unexpected and remain fluid while navigating what’s ahead. As we investigate the near and far future, we’re faced with many upcoming changes, whether it be known or unknown, global, or specific to our co-op. While we must remain vigilant and flexible to shift with the challenges, we must also never forget our true north and continue to perpetuate the vision and values of Oryana and our many passionate owners. My background and passion in developing and implementing business and go to market strategies will continue to serve Oryana and our almost 11,000 owners. As our Oryana family continues to grow, the repercussions and benefits of the decisions and strategies we place are only amplified with profound lasting effects. As a father of three beautiful children, I only want to perpetuate the good in this world for them; and Oryana, with its values, is one of those goods!

Emily Arbut

As a mother, doula, yoga instructor and avid vegan cook, I have always been extremely grateful for the physical and spiritual nourishment that a trip to Oryana provides. I live within a short walking distance and perceive it as a home-away-from-home, an essential community space that I want to nurture and support as it continues to grow in positive ways relevant to the members that it serves. Just as Oryana does, I place the utmost importance on the source and purity of the food that I serve to my family, friends, and clients. I believe, as Oryana does, that we are better when we grow as a village, supporting local farmers and producers. Just as Oryana does, I help the families that I serve by empowering them through education to make healthier choices for them to grow and thrive. As a member of the board, I would bring my strengths in self-less service, intuitive listening, and community building. I would also make every trip to Oryana an opportunity to connect with staff and patrons alike to learn from their Oryana experience and understand how the community can best be supported moving forward. With the continued rising cost of food and products, it remains more important than ever that Oryana places education on the forefront, reminding members and the community-at- large that quality is most important in the food that we put in our bodies, the products that we use in our household, and the goods that promote and provide for overall wellness. This is a challenge, but also an opportunity to remind consumers that the most important aspect of a household budget is the optimal nourishment of those within its walls.

Kaitlyn Burns

Up for re-election
Since 2011, I have represented Oryana’s owners. In that time, my passion has strengthened with each year served as an elected board representative. I believe that Oryana embodies a socially conscience culture that is so often the best version of what our Northern Michigan community can be. The co-op is a true democracy where I intentionally go to vote with my dollar. In return, Oryana invests in our community, environment and local economy—all at the intersection of food and health! With 11 years of Oryana board experience, including 6 as an Executive Committee member, I am well up to speed on what cooperative board leadership looks like as well as the roles and responsibilities of such. During my tenure on the board, I was a part of the process in preparing for expansion – both with the rescinded Acme location, and then the successful acquisition of Oryana West during a global pandemic. As we approach the co-op’s 50th Anniversary, there is much to celebrate. There is also much work to be done! The future can be difficult to predict, and there there will be a number of challenges that arise. In preparation, it’s the board’s responsibility to govern – to steer the organization towards success and ensure accountability that Oryana is indeed achieving the Ends in which we have defined and committed to. Currently, we as a board have been focused on reflecting and monitoring our board policies and processes. Additionally, we have formed a GM Succession Committee to ensure a successful future leadership transition. I am a member of this committee, and care deeply for the healthy perpetuation of Oryana’s leadership. I look forward to being a part of the continuation of this foundational work so that we can celebrate another 50+ years of cooperation together.

Parker Jones

Co-ops are a force for good. It empowers a whole community to act collectively towards a more equitable world. Oryana’s mission is one that brings people together and places ethics above profit. I’d be honored to support these ends by serving on the Oryana Board. Plus, what a fun place and community to be in! Oryana, unlike chain stores, actually smells like food. I love the bulk section. The dried mango is divine. My values set while serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Senegal. Food there became a much more personal thing. Mangos became a dull ‘thud”, falling off the tree. Peanuts were a gift from your neighbor to be cooked together. Through all of it were relationships. I left with a deep appreciation for people power. My community was able to plant over 6,000 trees and crowd fund a new women’s garden by working together.  I’d bring expertise in food systems to the Oryana Board. My job with Michigan State University Extension is to assist 70 food and agriculture entrepreneurs to meet their business goals. I apply my MBA to developing sustainable food business models in Northern Michigan and the UP. At the systems level, I’ve tripled meat processing capacity and aided the launch of the first kitchen incubators in the UP. I’m co-manager of a Regional Food System Partnership grant to create a more equitable and resilient food system across Michigan.  Oryana’s biggest challenge is the balance of mission and financial sustainability. Grocery has faced many challenges in recent years. Inflation, labor, product shortages and a possible recession to name a few. Oryana needs to continue to be a resilient business. At the same time, the mission is what brought us all together. It’s important to me that Oryana be a values-based, community resource, accessible to everyone. 

Shea O’Brien

Since I was young, I have always had a strong connection to the community of Traverse City. That connection has become more robust after joining our wonderful Co Op. I feel it is time for me to give back to my community by joining the Oryana Board of Directors.During  ten collective years in the food service industry, I have learned the value of healthy food, sustainable food systems and cooking with fresh ingredients. Oryana has echoed these values by always providing quality fresh ingredients, supporting local farms, allowing customers to responsibly buy in bulk, and having one of the best multi-cultural grocery sections in our community.I currently serve as the volunteer coordinator for the Traverse Heights Community garden, a board member of the Brownfield Redevelopment Authority and the Vice Chair of the Sara Hardy Farmers Market Advisory board. In these positions I listen to others and offer pragmatic advice when required. I believe these qualities are important in any leadership position. Leadership is about creating guiding principles and making broader decisions that gives others the opportunity to fulfill the mission and vision of the organization.I think a significant challenge facing Oryana is the same challenge facing the greater community — housing. I am privileged to live a short bike ride, bus ride or walk from the Co Op. I like to believe that many of Oryana’s owners would like to share in this ability. Reducing individual carbon footprints, staying healthy and strengthening our connection to the community are all tied to biking, walking, other types of transit, and housing. I want to believe that Oryana can play a more supportive role in housing development by simply sharing support with leaders and organizations already tackling the housing issue, or taking a more proactive and creative approach to the issue.

Robert Sainz

I’m interested in serving on the Oryana Board in order to bring a new set of eyes to the decision making body of an enterprise committed to keeping people healthy through the foods they eat and the choices they make. My passion is to provide the best food and best healthy options available to the greatest number of people. My values align with those of Oryana in that I come from a health career background. It has always been my drive to provide the best health options for people to choose from when they need help.  Individual health leads to community health. One of my strengths is communication and mediation. I have been the editor of my University and Chiropractic College newspapers. I hosted a cable television show on healthcare for three years. I’ve been involved in the health food scene since 1974. I have a rapport with people in my age group concerning health, both those whom have embraced it for decades, and those who are just now discovering the benefits of good food and healthy choices. I also am an administrator in a large sprouting group. Looking ahead at the various challenges and opportunities facing Oryana in the next decade, an important one is educating young students about the long range benefits of organic health food. This is both a challenge and an opportunity for the Oryana Community. The challenge is to find a way to get the attention of children in their formative years to develop an appreciation for wholesome foods, and the opportunity lies in educating young people who will become a future solid customer base committed to healthy personal outcomes and the success of Oryana. 

Kennard Weaver

I have been an Oryana member for about 30 years, and I believe that the greater Traverse area needs the foods that Oryana provides, and the support Oryana gives to local producers. I can contribute to Oryana continuing to fulfill its mission.  I know that fresh, natural food is more nutritious and tastier. I believe that Oryana’s leadership in our community supports better growing methods, and leads other food retailers and producers to improve their food practices and products. I have supported conservation and other organizations engaging in creating social capital for many decades, including Inland Seas, the Traverse Symphony Orchestra, Northwestern Michigan College, (Boy) Scouts, the Land Information Access Association, the Peninsula Township Fire Board, WNIT (public television station), and others. My education and experience in finance and as a lawyer, and on multiple boards of directors, including manufacturing and other business boards, non-profit boards, and governmental boards, will guide my contribution to the Oryana Board. In the 1980s policy board governance became the norm for business and industry boards, so I have considerable experience with it. I have a BA in accounting and a JD from Harvard Law School, and was a senior partner in an international  law firm now known as Faegre Drinker Biddle Reath. Oryana faces a test of endurance, during which there will be periods of growth and periods of retrenchment. Employee attraction and retention require constant attention, and the needs are especially urgent now. At some point, there will be a larger competitive entity, perhaps Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s, entering the market.  Oryana now occupies the space once housing the first of these chain competitors, but the challenge has not gone away. Planning now to meet all of these challenges will be the key to survival.