Meet the 2021 Board Candidates

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The Oryana board of directors is comprised of 9 members who serve 3 year terms. We currently have 3 open positions and voting is live now both in store and online for verified Owners. If you did not receive an online ballot but feel you should have, please email [email protected]. The candidates are listed below in alphabetical order.

Kathy Baylis Monteith

Incumbent – During the past year, Oryana has demonstrated remarkable responsiveness to COVID while supporting unprecedented growth, including acquisition of and expansion to a second location. During this time, your Oryana Board has also grown and evolved.  It has been my privilege to support this evolution by serving on the board. That said, there is more work to do. It would be an honor to continue to build relationships and utilize lessons learned in service to Oryana and its board.
When I first became a member-owner in the early 90s, I was drawn to Oryana’s commitment to high-quality and locally-sourced food. Now, I more deeply appreciate Oryana’s broader contributions to our shoppers, farmers, community, and society-at-large.  I have learned a great deal about co-operative values and recognize that Oryana is so much more than just “great grocers.” I embrace Oryana’s cooperative values of honesty, openness, social responsibility, and caring for others. 
As the current board vice-president, I am passionate about the board’s commitment to collaboration, education, and self-evaluation. These focus areas were identified prior to the pandemic in our “2020 Board Work Plan.” This plan’s importance became clearer as 2020 unfolded. If re-elected, I look forward to devoting my cooperative energy and organizational skills to build on our collective accomplishments. I will continue to support a culture that facilitates effective board governance aligned with our Mission Statement and Ends Policies, while preparing for Oryana’s future. 
Oryana will continue to face challenges as we navigate the pandemic and meet the community’s needs as an “essential service.” There will also be opportunities for Oryana to continue to serve as a food-related touchstone and model community member, including in our educational role as people continue to experience the satisfaction of enjoying and preparing quality, healthy food.
As a current member of the Owner Engagement Committee, I will continue to work with the Oryana community to explore new ways to engage interested owners, whether virtually or in-person.  If re-elected for a second term, I look forward to continuing to represent current and future owners. Thank you for considering me to represent you.

Andrea Deibler

I believe Oryana is one of the most essential businesses in our community and I’d love an opportunity to support and serve the members and vendors that make our co-op so amazing. I’m also interested in learning more about how co-ops work from within. 
Integrity, self sufficiency and sustainability are values that are important to me both professionally and personally, and I believe that Oryana succeeds in business and in our community because it also practices these core values. The best businesses reflect the values of its stakeholders and find a way to be both profitable and giving in a community. In our community, Oryana is one of these businesses. 
I have years of business experience in the local food community, both in purchasing local meats and produce for a local distribution company and for a restaurant that I owned and operated for three years here in Traverse City. I love food and cooking, and I love connecting with farmers.
Communities that have access to healthy food and sustainable food systems thrive, but creating the opportunities for growers and customers to connect in an affordable way is one of the greatest challenges of our time. Oryana always has been and will continue to be a huge buyer of local produce and meats, and that role comes with logistical and economical challenges, but also gives Oryana the opportunity to boost and significantly help uphold our vibrant farming community. 
I’m a good listener and I’m easy to talk to, and I always love to talk about food and farming. In a small community like ours, I understand that our co-op is so important to the daily lives of the member-owners, so it is essential that the board listen to its community. I will actively work to learn from and listen to our member-owners about what they need from our co-op and help align those needs and values with Oryana’s business strategy.

Leslie Elsen

As a small business owner, I am seeking real and impactful ways to become more involved in the community through food education and food service. I am passionate about food insecurity and education surrounding the food industry as a whole.  I’m also a mom of a toddler and am constantly striving for efficiency and sustainability in my everyday life. I am passionate about education and offering the tools for “success” at a young age, as I teach my daughter the importance of healthy meals and how our decisions impact others in a community.  I believe in making thorough decisions that provide the community with efficient and educational ways to approach their local food market.  
One of my most impactful strengths is my ability to employ compassion and empathy. I truly care about others and want to ensure the best possible outcomes for all parties involved. I am fair and honest and try my best to put myself in someone else’s shoes. I am also a problem solver and tend to be solution minded when given a task or an issue. Lastly, I am humble and open minded. I know that I have good ideas, but I am not always right, and for that reason I am not afraid to say, “I don’t know.” 
Significant challenges facing Oryana: 
Continuing to offer affordable and accessible food options, especially with the rising cost of raw ingredients and changes in how consumers are buying their groceries 
Increased scalability while also maintaining sustainability and accessibility both in price and location for members 
Maintaining a culture of conversation (the personal relationship environment of a small local grocer). 
I believe that there are always opportunities for education, whether that be allowing members and non-members further insight into the supply chain or providing members with information on ingredients or produce and how to prepare them. I believe the strongest point of opportunity will always be education, especially youth, because so much of the “Ends Policies” is teachable at a young age and lays the foundation for future generations to improve upon our work.  
My goal would be to represent member-owners, by offering a fair, honest, and empathetic perspective to decision-making. I would represent by listening and providing validation of concerns while simultaneously educating on the Cooperative Principles and Ends Policies. The best way to represent member-owners, in my opinion, is to lead by example and admit and acknowledge personal shortcomings with the promise to continue to strive for better.  

Linda Gardiner

I am interested in serving on the Board of Oryana because this feels like a perfect way to get involved in our community with an organization that fits my passion for good food, local growers, sustainable practices, cooking, collaboration, and a positive atmosphere. 
I strongly believe that what we eat and how that food is produced plays a large part in our health. Pesticides, nutrient collapse, eating local, are a few things I think about and want to have an impact on at whatever scale I can manage. 
Over the years I have had a role on a few boards. PTA president for my sons’ elementary school, Secretary for a Hockey association. I was in charge of insurance billing & collections for a surgery practice in town for well over a decade. Lots of problem solving and people skills were needed for those roles. I am also an artist which lends creativity and a left-brain approach to my thinking. 
Some of the most significant challenges and opportunities I see facing Oryana include staying focused on local farmers & suppliers, helping members of our community that are in difficult circumstances, and promoting membership to a broader audience, to name just a few.  
How would I represent the member-owners as a director of the board? Listening would be the most important piece. As stated, the board is a collaborative body, so offering ideas that are fresh, stated differently, or potentially new to implement goals. Outwardly support Oryana in my interactions with the community.

Dominique Gentle

I have fond memories of going to a co-op with my mom when I was young.  It was in the basement of a community building and there were about 20 members.  I am proud to live in a community that encourages access to healthy and local food on a large scale.  I plan to be in Traverse City for my son’s childhood and I would love to be a bigger part of the places I believe are the most important in our community.
In recent years I have become more passionate about building healthier communities, and have been wanting to find ways to support and encourage the health of my home community.  I believe that my personal values of educating the community about healthy food, sustainability, and the economic advantages of supporting local are directly related to the goals of Oryana.  I also value the democratic approach to business.
I am very good at relating to many different types of people.  I am motivated to progress Traverse City in a positive way.  I have excellent communication skills. I work well with a group to accomplish similar goals and excel at finding solutions to problems.  
An educated guess, based on my current place of employment, immediate challenges are most likely staffing and a disrupted supply chain. We have also been struggling with the inability to make long-term plans.  Opportunities may include more local farmer involvement.  With the pressure on local farmers to produce more, since shipments have been unpredictable, there may be an increase in farmers, or a new-found motivation.  Also more awareness has been created about the importance of shopping local.
As someone who believes everyone should have access to quality food, I understand the importance of healthy, sustainable and affordable grocery options.  

Marty Heller

Oryana is a major trailhead to the vast and interconnected network that is my (and your!) Northern Michigan community: so many of the people, organizations and things that I care about in this community somehow – eventually – connect back to Oryana. I’d like to serve among the stewards of this trailhead, to bring my international perspective on food systems home to where I live. 
When I returned to Michigan in 1998, it was to become a farmer directly connected with my community. Since that time, I’ve been an active student of sustainable food systems, both formally as an academic researcher and informally as a local foodie. When I moved to Traverse City in 2006 to start a farm, Oryana was my first customer. Oryana and its members understand the value of a food system rooted in community and committed to the health of people, place and planet: that, in essence, is how our values align.
I’ve gained a heap of appreciation and understanding of food systems through intensively studying them for two decades. As a research specialist through the University of Michigan, I’ve advised clients such as Beyond Meat on their environmental sustainability and published on the environmental footprints of our diets. I’m a solutions-oriented systems thinker with an engineering background and a soft spot for people.
2020 exposed all too well the vulnerabilities in our national and global food system. I believe that the coming decades will bring increasing stressors and disruptions that test the resilience of those production and distribution structures. Oryana is poised to serve as a major ballast against such disruptions locally. The challenges we face are real – global health threats, climate change and a planet in crisis, systemic social inequities – but the opportunities for change are also real. Strengthening the network of local growers, promoting diversity and redundancies, and committing to science-based GHG emission reduction targets of Oryana’s operations and sales are a few ways we can deepen our resilience.
I wish to represent the Oryana member-owners as a friend and trusted professional, with a (masked, for now…) big smile and patient ear.

Heather Jensen

I’m interested in serving on the Board of Oryana because it has become a second home to our family. It aligns with our values as a family to buy and eat locally sourced healthy food.  Furthermore, since Oryana has brought us so much joy, I would like to serve on the board to get more involved in the community and give back to a cause that is close to my heart.  
The book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle:  A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver changed the way I shopped for food.  I have always eaten and shopped for healthy foods.  However, this book really made me look at each choice I make while shopping.  I strongly believe in buying locally when possible.  I am a yoga instructor committed to not only creating overall wellness for myself and my family but to help others to become healthy, vibrant, and well themselves.  Before the pandemic, I taught yoga to children with special needs in school settings.  
I have worked as a teacher, life coach, yoga instructor, and antiques dealer.  I’ve served in leadership positions at my children’s schools and at a food pantry.  I love meeting new people, learning new things,  and serving my community.  
Covid 19 continues to bring unprecedented challenges to businesses as well as Oryana.  Economic difficulties for our community will be a significant challenge in the years to come.
I am an open minded person constantly striving to live my best life.  I believe in actively listening to others to help the greater good, and  I admire leadership that aims to serve others.  

Andrew Lutes

Since joining the staff of another cooperative in our community (Commongrounds), I have become increasingly enthusiastic about the impact cooperatives have in our community and the inner workings of their governance. I am excited by the possibility of bringing my experience in hospitality and operations to Oryana’s leadership team.
My personal and professional goals have intersected throughout the past 5 years—to focus on building community, working towards higher levels of inclusivity and equity for community members, serving the underserved, and preserving and restoring our natural environment in the region. These goals are dictated by my core values and most of them echo in Oryana’s Ends Policies.
Mission-Alignment has been a key aptitude in my professional career. Through my work with other boards I have found that keeping an eye on the horizon and staying on mission can have great value and keep us out of the weeds and rabbit holes. I also have career level experience with financial period statements, P&L’s, cost controlling, and new business development in the food and beverage industry.
I believe that the cost barriers between below-median income families and healthy, organic/local foods and products is growing ever-higher in our region. I am committed to learning more about what is working in our region to close that gap—and what is not. Then, being a part of innovative solutions. Additionally, I believe that Oryana has an opportunity to further strengthen its presence in the lives of young people, creatively. Early teens to early 20’s—leading to even healthier, more active generations to come.
With Co-Op goals and member-owner needs aligned, I will commit to driving growth in all of Oryana’s Ends Policy categories to produce measurable impacts, while supporting staff and pursuing Oryana’s economic goals.

Jennifer May

I would love the opportunity to collaborate with, learn from, and contribute to the work of other board members who believe in the importance, goals and vision of Oryana. My family has been a supporter of Oryana since 2002 and the weekly trips with our daughters has been a favorite routine for many years.
I find tremendous value and joy in providing healthy, wholesome foods to my family, supporting local growers in our area and supporting the health of our planet. There is a benefit of not only having the opportunity to access local, healthy foods but also knowing how to incorporate them into a regular part of daily life.
I am a Registered Dietitian and Exercise Physiologist with Master’s Degrees in​ Nutrition Science ​ and ​Kinesiology ​ and a Bachelor’s Degree in ​Environmental Health​ . I have worked as a certified ​Wellcoach ​ in corporate wellness for over 17 years supporting individuals in setting and achieving goals. I have served on a scientific advisory board, worked on numerous committees, acted as a coaching mentor, and managed a top online nutrition services program. I have provided nutrition and wellness information as a college educator, and through television, radio and in-person seminars.
It is important to maintain the feel and vision of Oryana as it expands throughout the area.​ ​This can be a potential challenge during times of growth. It is also important to maintain a strong diversity of supply – the pandemic has shown this to be very important. I believe in not only providing access to wholesome, healthy items but taking opportunities to provide education and practical ideas which support the incorporation of these into one’s lifestyle. There is great opportunity in tapping into the ideas and engagement that our local youth could bring to the co-op.
I would represent the member-owners as a director of the board by continuing to work, both personally and professionally, to help sustain, support and guide the vision of the board. I would work in continuing to help ensure that the voices and needs of the member-owners are heard and expand my participation within the Oryana community.

Elizabeth McLachlan

Oryana has become a pillar in the community through its support of the local food economy and focus on individual wellbeing in the area. I was first introduced to Oryana while working on an organic farm in Leelanau County. Farming gave me great appreciation for the food we consume and the people who produce it. Access to good food options is not a given; I struggled to find quality options while attending law school in Chicago. It feels like a privilege to have a place like Oryana nearby, and I would work to ensure Oryana’s continued success in this growing and evolving community.
Oryana currently faces several key challenges: continuing to operate in a responsible way during a pandemic, growing the customer base for Oryana West, and capturing key customers moving to the area. My goals in supporting Oryana through a Board position would be to focus on current challenges, continue to support current customers, make Oryana more accessible to the community regardless of socioeconomic status, and improve food education initiatives throughout the community and membership. 
I would look forward to supporting Oryana during these times with a focus on both short-term and long-term challenges. In addition to working on financial and business matters through my legal career, my dream when starting law school was to help improve community health. I’ve spent many volunteer hours supporting and implementing health policy initiatives, and I would love to bring my experience to Oryana as a Board member. 
Throughout my life, I have been dedicated to environmental and community health. This began in elementary school when a guest speaker convinced me to run home and beg my parents to get a recycling bin, volunteering for local land conservancies, and eventually led me to work on organic and sustainable farms. Protecting the environment and improving community health has been a lifelong endeavor, and I hope supporting Oryana is my next step.  

Jack Miner

As a new resident, but long-time visitor (my in laws have lived in the community for nearly 30 years), I am looking for ways to give back to the community. Many years ago, I remember talking with Paul Sutherland about the importance of an organization like Oryana. Since that first conversation, I worked with the Functional Medicine Institute at Cleveland Clinic (as an employee of the Clinic) and the importance of ‘food is medicine’. In addition, I followed with interest as a friend of mine opened a year round farmers market in Ann Arbor. What Oryana does and stands for is key to a healthy and happy community, and as my wife and I build our home here, I want to do a small part to help advance your mission.
The healthy lifestyle of Traverse City is why we are living here. I am an active cyclist and (learning to be) a skate skier and my wife and I can be found on local hikes a couple times a week. Supporting local farmers is key to keeping this lifestyle and preserving their livelihoods and much of the community’s goals.
One strength I bring is my specific skill set of focusing on the health benefits of healthy eating, healthy lifestyle, and support of the local community. In addition, I have served on numerous boards and understand my fiduciary role. I am an experienced venture capital and growth stage investment professional. I am happy to provide this optic to the board when/if necessary.
I would represent the member-owners as a director of the board by providing behind the scenes support to the GM of Oryana in whatever way I can. Providing input to the board on health trends that I hear from the healthcare provider community. Being a good voice/sounding board, unbiased fiduciary for the member owners.

Ari Mokdad

Since moving to Traverse City, I have wanted to find ways to help support and serve our community. As an avid chef and gardener, I found that Oryana would have ingredients that I could usually only find in stores in the metro Detroit area or at Eastern Market. I deeply valued that Oryana strived to include multi-cultural foods and bulk options, which made my transition into our community feel more like home. I hope to share my passion for Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine with my strong desire to serve our community.
As a dancer and educator, it has been paramount that I teach my students about proper nutrition and healthy eating habits. As a business owner in the food and tourism industry, I have led by example through composting and zero waste programs–after all, the food and tourism industry is one of the largest producers of single-use plastics. I have always valued food as a way to bring people together, and over the years, I’ve learned more about our local food systems and how important it is to building a healthy community. As a chef, I value the relationships I’ve built with our local farmers, who have been generous in sharing their knowledge with me, and the wealth of healthy, local food we have access to because of their hard work and passion.
I am finishing up my PhD in cultural rhetorics, specifically focusing on decolonial methodology and experiential learning, which has allowed me to build a more inclusive and diverse curriculum for my students–and something I hope to share as a member of the board. I currently work as a marketing professional, with a background in editorial, document design, and digital marketing. As a published writer, one of my strongest strengths is my ability to build effective communication.
With the impact of the pandemic making much of our events shift to a digital platform, I believe Oryana faces some challenges to their digital outreach, virtual events, and building an accessible website. I would love to see more opportunities to engage our community in virtual and digital formats, which is something I would be able to directly support with my skills and knowledge.
Not only do I represent our community as a professional, but I am also a devoted wife, a mother, and an educator. My work as an educator has centered around community and this is a value that is instilled in my family, my business, and my life. I want to build a supportive, inclusive, and accepting community, which is a value shared by many Oryana members.

Tom Peterson

I am interested in serving on the Board because I believe in the co-op model and am interested in furthering the model in this community. 
My values align with those of Oryana because I believe that good food should be available to all and sourced in an ecological manner.
Some of my strengths include experience in management, operating my own business, being treasurer for two non profits, and I have served on boards in the past. I am a retired U.S. Naval Officer and a retired pastor.
A significant challenge I see facing Oryana is how to remain effective andd viable in the future. 
I would represent the board as I would represent my familyhonestly, fairly, and openly.

Holly Jo Sparks

Incumbent – I have served on the Oryana Board of Directors for seven years, representing our diverse ownership and community. During my tenure, I have been a member of every Standing Committee, including the Executive Committee. This past year, with support from my fellow board members and emeritus Oryana leaders, I stepped into the role of President.

Previously, I’ve noted that challenging times call for courageous leadership. Oryana and its leadership have answered that call. Faced with stiffening competition, we expanded and acquired a new store, preserving local jobs and access to healthy foods (& gummy bears, let’s be honest). In light of the public health crisis, Oryana’s leadership and services have adapted and thrived. 

I often speak about how I cherish Oryana for its resilience and cooperative values. 2020 has demonstrated beyond a doubt that supporting democratic, community-based enterprise offers solutions that profit-motivated and box store grocery cannot.

For 25+ years, I’ve been a co-op professional. My prior experience traveling and working remotely prepared me to lead Oryana’s Board effectively through virtual meetings. I split time between co-op consulting, managing rental property in Interlochen, and directing housing cooperatives in the Lansing area. I am also on the Board of Shared Capital Co-op, a community development financial institution whose explicit mission is to address wealth disparity and racial inequity through cooperatives. I studied housing, community and economic development at UNC Chapel Hill and at MIT, from which I hold a degree in City Planning. I once spent a year researching co-ops, farmers and other businesses that partnered with regional hospitals and educational institutions (i.e. “Eds & Meds”) to build healthy, thriving local economies. In short, I am proud to serve as a link between Oryana and the cooperative movement at-large and look forward to seeing you all again, literally, at the table!

Sarah Sullivan

Over the past ten years, I have vacationed in Traverse City and enjoyed shopping at Oryana 10th many times. Having permanently moved here from Maine in 2020, I am interested in making local connections while satisfying my passion for community service. Specifically, I appreciate how Oryana offers locally sourced and healthy food products to the community, and extending the offerings to all beyond the scope of membership. 
As a professional accountant and graduate student of clinical mental health counseling, I live and advocate for self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity and solidarity, all values that are shared by the co-operative business model. I believe that we collectively own the duty of our continually improving our community while practicing acceptance and kindness.
I would bring open-mindedness, the ability to communicate with kindness, and over five years’ experience serving as a member and officer on various municipal, non-profit, and co-operative boards. Presently, I serve on the professional development committee for Traverse Connect, and as board member of a co-operative healthcare company based in Maine. Professionally, I operate as an accounting consultant with nearly twenty years’ financial experience working for a broad scope of industries, including logistics and supply chain – possessing knowledge that is vital to any retail business. Recently, I signed on to consult for a brewery based in Maine, offering experience in the food/beverage retail market. 
One of of the most significant challenges facing Oryana is continuing to source high quality and local products at affordable costs. Eventually, competition from larger chains (i.e Whole Foods) may present a challenge, however it appears that Oryana has a solid member-owner/customer base who will continue to support this local establishment. Another opportunity for Oryana is thoughtful expansion into surrounding communities that could benefit from access to high quality/local products. 
I will make myself accessible to the member-ownership, listen to all concerns/suggestions, and consider their gift of feedback in my voting decisions.