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A sales developer, communications specialist, youth academy director and director of government relations for the Small Business Association of Michigan are among the 24 graduates of the 2015 Michigan Political Leadership Program.

“Our 2015 graduating class is rich in diversity, professional experiences and community engagement,” said Anne Mervenne, co-director of Michigan State University’s Michigan Political Leadership Program.

The program selects 24 rising leaders each year for 10 months of study, ranging from hands-on experiences, discussion, debate and leadership exercises. MPLP Fellows travel to Michigan’s Capitol and around the state to meet with government, corporate, tribal and nonprofit leaders.

“Our leadership curriculum introduces MPLP Fellows to best practices in policy analysis, social media, campaign advertising and finance as well as to the leading practitioners in Michigan,” said MPLP co-director Steve Tobocman.

MPLP was founded in 1992 as term limits appeared as a factor in Michigan governance. Since then, some 600 people, from all professions and all corners of the state, have gone through MPLP training.

“MPLP’s record is impressive,” said Matt Grossmann, a nationally known political scientist who is new director of the Institute for Public Policy and Social Research where MPLP makes its home at MSU in the College of Social Science.

“They continue to rise into the highest ranks of leadership.”

This year, 11 MPLP graduates are serving in the state Legislature. Seven are serving together in the state House of Representatives. Four serve in the state Senate -- a new record for MPLP graduates seated at the same time in the Senate.

MPLP leaders are found at all levels in state government, from school boards members to township trustees, city mayors and precinct delegates elected on behalf of Republic, Democratic and independent parties. An increasing number are rising into the ranks of executive management in Michigan’s largest communities, Mervenne and Tobocman said.

MPLP strives for bipartisanship in its co-directors and trainers as well. Mervenne is CEO of Mervenne and Company, a governmental relations consulting firm. She previously served for 12 years in the administration of Michigan Gov. John Engler.

Tobocman is managing partner at New Solutions Group and Director of Global Detroit. He served in the Michigan House for three consecutive, two-year terms, the maximum allowed under term limits, and was elected Majority Floor Leader, the House’s second highest position.

MPLP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan program. It is supported by the Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Foundation of Midland, Michigan, and generous contributions from Michigan associations, corporations, labor organizations, MPLP alumni and individuals.

It is also supported by two of the largest nonpartisan events in the state – the annual dinner and breakfast which bring to Michigan two nationally known speakers.

In 2016, Jim Messina, former deputy chief of staff to President Barack Obama, and Karl Rove, former deputy chief of staff for President George W. Bush, delighted audiences at MPLP fundraisers.

This 2015 MPLP graduates are:

  • Jordan Acker, of Huntington Woods, an attorney and director of business development for Goodman Acker
  • Donovan Asmar, of Washington Township, an attorney with Bodman, PLC
  • Erin Byrnes, of Dearborn, program director for America Reads, University of Michigan
  • Jeff Connell, of Dewitt, director of the Michigan Youth Challenge Academy (Michigan National Guard)
  • Charity Dean, of Detroit, sales/programs manager for the Detroit Land Bank Authority
  • Ben Greene, of Grand Rapids, legislative director for state Rep. Chris Afendoulis
  • Ashley Ligon, of Almont, government relations consultant for Clark Hill, PLC
  • Michael Marzano, of Jackson, director of government relations for the Small Business Association of Michigan
  • Jeffery Matis, of Rochester, an Oakland circuit judge
  • LaToya McBean, of Royal Oak, deputy director of Wayne County's Department of Corporation Counsel
  • Regina Miller, of Van Buren Township, trustee for Van Buren Township
  • Megan Noland, of Rochester, state & federal coordinator for the Oakland County sheriff
  • Dave Nyberg, of Skandia, associate legal counsel director, northern Michigan Office, executive office of Gov. Rick Snyder
  • Jennifer Oram, of Orchard Lake, sales representative for 5 Star Outdoor and city councilperson for Orchard Lake
  • Sylvia Santana, of Detroit, candidate for State Representative, 9th District
  • Kirstie Sieloff, of East Lansing, legislative director for Rep. Al Pscholka
  • Jake Smith, of Battle Creek, business analyst for Southwest Michigan Behavioral Health
  • Andy Steenstra, of Grandville, sales development team lead at Service Express, Inc.and councilperson in Grandville
  • Samantha Troutman, of Lansing, communications specialist for the Girl Scouts Heart of Michigan
  • Edgar Vann, III, of Detroit, district director of government relations at Wayne County Community College District
  • Adrienne Wallace, of Grand Rapids, director for 834 Design & Marketing and visiting professor, Grand Valley State University
  • Maria Willett, of Rochester Hills, chief assistant to the mayor of Rochester Hills
  • Matt Williams, of Ann Arbor, compliance analyst for the Michigan Economic Development Corporation
  • Sherman Williams II, of Pontiac, Pontiac School Board Trustee