Contact: Jeremy C. Nagel, 517-323-6585
LANSING — Following a year of growth, transition and reorganization at Michigan Farm Bureau (MFB) Family of Companies, a pink drift of eraser shavings has piled up under the company's org chart. With new emphasis on streamlining itself into a lean, mean agricultural machine, the state's largest farm group is committed to fulfilling its mission to protect and enhance the interests of its nearly 200,000 members statewide.
Education & Leadership Development
Deb Schmucker will be the inaugural director of MFB's new Center for Education and Leadership Development. The Center will bring together the organization's existing Promotion and Education and Young Farmer programs, the Michigan Foundation of Agriculture, the Michigan Ag Council staff position and several leadership development programs, including the Young People's Citizenship Seminar, Great Lakes Leadership Academy, FFA and ProFILE. Schmucker has managed MFB's Promotion and Education Department for the past 14 years; prior to that she served five years as a regional representative serving Farm Bureau members in five mid-Michigan counties. Schmucker lives in Osseo with her husband Brent and their daughter.
Tonia Ritter will succeed Schmucker as manager of MFB's Promotion and Education Department, with responsibility for coordinating, planning and implementing state-level P&E activities as directed by the state P&E committee. For the past six years Ritter managed MFB's Government Relations Department, working with legislators and their staffs, state employees and government officials to implement Farm Bureau's grassroots policies. Previously she worked in agriculture marketing and public relations for both Monsanto and Fleishman-Hillard Public Relations. Ritter and her husband Brad live in Byron, where they operate a dairy farm with his parents and their three sons, Trevor, Bryce and Evan.
Amelia Miller will serve the Center for Education and Leadership Development as its education and communication specialist, transitioning from her current position as administrative coordinator for Promotion & Education. Miller has been with MFB for three years, including positions with the Information and Public Relations Division and the Michigan Ag Council. Miller's new role will include communication and education support; web, social media and other electronic communication; educational resource development; and graphic design. She is a Michigan State University (MSU) graduate with a degree in agriscience education.
Mindy Pung will join the Center for Education and Leadership Development as administrative coordinator. She has served MFB's Public Policy and Commodity Division for more than 22 years, coordinating state and national legislative support, policy development, AgriPac and other programs. Prior to MFB, Pung worked for Michigan National Bankcard Center in several administrative roles. Pung and her husband John reside in Pewamo; they have three grown children and are enjoying their first grandson.
Effective Oct. 25, Matt Smego succeeds Tonia Ritter at the helm of MFB's Government Relations Department, responsible for planning, coordinating and implementing state-level policy implementation. He will lead MFB's presence at the state capitol, play a key role in the organization's policy development process and coordinate the organization's annual Lansing Legislative Seminar. For the past eight years, he has worked as a legislative counsel responsible for transportation, energy and environmental issues. Previously Smego served as MFB's agricultural ecology specialist, Young Farmer department manager and as a regional representative in the Thumb. Smego earned his agriscience degree from MSU; he now lives in Grand Ledge with his wife Holly and their two children, Shelby and George. (Click here for more on Smego's promotion.)
On Oct. 25 Chris Gerkman begins his new role as director of MFB's new technology center, responsible for advancing the company's mission through technology and as a key liaison to Farm Bureau Insurance. Gerkman came to MFB in 2007 as a database and member services specialist. Earlier this year he took an assignment with Farm Bureau Insurance as a financial data analyst. He has a strong understanding of MFB's technology needs, databases and relationships. Previously Gerkman worked as a regional service representative with Pharma Logistics in Illinois. He is an MSU graduate and lives in Dimondale with his wife Erika and their two children, Jaynee and Leah.
In March 2013 Denise Mazei began work as a county office support supervisor with MFB's County Services Department, after 13 years as Sanilac County Farm Bureau's county administrative manager (CAM)—invaluable experience that informs her new role training CAMs in county finance, Blue Cross Blue Shield and administration. Mazei's new role puts her on the road, coaching and supporting county Farm Bureau staff across eastern and northern Michigan, and assisting counties through staffing vacancies and transitions. The Sandusky resident holds an MBA from Baker College; she has two daughters and five grandchildren.
Parallel with Mazei's appointment is Lisa Pruden's transition into an equivalent role covering counties in the western and southern Lower Peninsula. Pruden has been with MFB since 2003, and prior to that served as CAM for the Ingham County Farm Bureau.
Information & Public Relations
Shannon Hannasch began work in May 2013 as a graphic designer for MFB's Printing Services Department, succeeding Heather Costigan. Hannasch executes various graphic design jobs, including internal MFB design tasks, county Farm Bureau projects and county newsletters as well as personal design projects and work for outside clients. Hannasch came to MFB with extensive design experience and a wide range of talents. Previously she worked at Skyline Outdoor and Harvest Bible Chapel in Illinois. Hannasch lives in Mason with her husband Chris, currently in a sports medicine residency through Sparrow Hospital and MSU.
A three-year veteran of Farm Bureau Insurance Policy Holder Services, Heather Lewis started Aug. 26 as administrative coordinator for MFB's Information and Public Relations (IPR) division. Lewis brings exceptional communications, planning and customer service skills to the position. Originally from St. Johns, Lewis has an associate's degree in business administration and is completing her bachelor's in business management at Northwood University. She will provide administrative and technical support for IPR staff and assist with data management, budgeting, accounting, publishing and planning MFB's annual meeting.
Mitzi Warren begins her new position as an individual health insurance specialist Oct. 25, bringing with her a wealth of health insurance industry knowledge. For the past 20 years, Warren has been Hillsdale County Farm Bureau's administrative manager, a role expanded to include Jackson County in 2010. She was responsible for servicing health insurance products for members and enrolling customers for Medicare beneficiary products. In her new role, Warren will enroll customers in the marketplace for non-Medicare individual health insurance products and assist health insurance agents statewide to assure production, compliance, retention and representation. She and her husband Alex live in Jerome.
A recent graduate of MSU's College of Law, Tyler Ernst began work in MFB's legal department as a staff attorney on Aug. 20. A law clerk with MFB since April 2012, Ernst previously worked for the Michigan Department of Attorney General; the U.S. Senate in Washington, D.C.; Ehrlich Construction; Euroffice in London, England; as an MSU Research Assistant; and for First National Bank and Trust in Powell, Wyo. Ernst lives in Lansing with his wife Alycia, who attends the MSU College of Human Medicine.
In December 2012 Paula Droste took the helm of MFB's accounting department as director of financial services, overseeing all facets of financial statements, year-end audits and tax returns. She started at MFB in 2011 as financial reporting and accounting systems manager, preparing financial statements for MFB, its affiliates and charitable foundations. In her new role, Droste serves executive management and division directors with accounting services to assist in the management of MFB programs, activities and business plans. Droste also provides county Farm Bureaus with recordkeeping, financial reporting and tax return preparation services. After earning accounting and business degrees from MSU, Droste began her accounting career at Deloitte & Touche LLP before moving on to increasing responsibilities at AP Capital/AP Assurance, Delta Dental of Michigan and Spartan Motors, Inc. Droste lives in DeWitt with her husband Brian and their three children, Bailee, JP and Luke.