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The Very Best People

Robert Downes - March 4th, 2004
The People page is our favorite feature each year in the “Best of Northern Michigan“ survey, because it‘s here that readers honor those who are at the top of their game in a wide range of professions.

Most Influential Northern Michiganian: Gov. William G. Milliken
Raised on Washington Street in Traverse City, Bill Milliken was the longest-serving governor in the state‘s history, occupying the office from 1969 to 1983.
Gov. Milliken is an honest-to-gosh war hero: He flew 50 combat missions in WWII as a waist-gunner in a B-24. He survived two crash landings; received a flak stomach wound on one mission; and once had to bail out in Italy when his plane ran out of fuel 50 miles from its base. He received seven medals for his service, according to “The Milliken Years“ by Joyce Braithwaite and George Weeks.
Still considered one of the leaders of the moderate wing of the Republican Party, Governor Milliken‘s administration saw many advancements in civil rights and environmental protections. The governor signed Michigan‘s landmark bottle deposit law into effect in 1976 and it was during his tenure that the Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore was created by an act of Congress in 1970. Although he hailed from Northern Michigan, Gov. Milliken recognized the importance of preserving the viability of the City of Detroit and refused to play into the “us vs. them“ mentality of outstate politicians. As governor, he lobbied against members of his own party in the late ‘70s for the Detroit People Mover, which was ultimately approved in a drastically limited form.
Since leaving the office, Gov. Milliken has sometimes served as the conscience of the Republican Party. He blasted Rush Limbaugh in the early ‘90s as a dangerous influence on the GOP, making national headlines. Most recently, he took Republican gubernatorial candidate Dick Posthumus to task for race-baiting comments in the last election, calling them “morally wrong and politically stupid.“ He disparaged urban sprawl in a much-reprinted speech in recent years and has been an outspoken supporter of Affirmative Action in editorials and interviews over the past year.
Little known fact: The governor‘s middle initial stands for Grawn, the family namesake of the crossroads between TC and Interlochen. Look for more on the Gov in an upcoming issue of the Express.

Best Local Heroes: Drs. Jim Mudgett and John Van Dalson
Pillars of Northern Michigan‘s fitness community for more than 20 years, the unexpected deaths of Drs. Mudgett and Van Dalson within a month or so of each other sent shock waves of disbelief through the hearts of hundreds of friends and patients this winter.
The family practitioners were in partnership together for two decades, delivering hundreds of babies in the region and always urging a regimen of good nutrition and fitness for their patients. Dr. Van Dalson was also a top triathlon competitor in the ‘80s, while Dr. Mudgett held similar status as a road racer. In recent years, Jim Mudgett retired to pursue a love of photograhy, while John Van Dalson saw patients nearly to end, even while afflicted with terminal cancer.

Best Environmentalist: Jim Olson
Attorney Jim Olson of the TC-based Olson, Bzdok & Howard law firm, is practically the Moses of Northern Michigan‘s environmental movement, leading his people to the promised land of pristine lakes and forests.
Over the past 20 years, Olson has been involved in just about every major environmental battle in the north, from the Petoskey bypass and Hartman-Hammond Bridge in TC to the Crystal River controversy in Glen Arbor and many others.
He was prescient in recognizing the importance of water-diversion issues in the Great Lakes well before it became a popular public cause and has represented Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation in their suit against Nestle Waters (Ice Mountain). Olson‘s depth of knowledge on environmental issues and persuasive legal arguements led to a victory this year in the Mecosta County Circuit Court of Judge Lawrence Root who agreed that pumping water in the area damaged the local watershed, and ultimately, the Great Lakes. The Ice Mountain bottling plant has been shut down and last week, Judge Root denied Nestle‘s motion for a new trial.

Best Bartenders
Just about every bartender at every watering hole in Northern Michigan got a vote from the arm-benders at the rail, but the following were those who got an extra splash of attention from Express readers:
• Ron Hancock -- Red Mesa Grill, Boyne City
• Brent Riemersma -- Friendly Tavern, Empire
• Tammy Meadows -- The Tannery, Boyne City
• Ed Havens -- The U&I Lounge, TC
• Laurie Jewell -- Pearl‘s, Elk Rapids
• Vince Fotchman -- Union Street Station, TC
• Johnny Walker -- Leo‘s, Petoskey

Best Veterinarian: Daniel Aja, DVM
Dr. Dan Aja of the Cherry Bend Animal Hospital in Traverse City got three times as many votes as other vets chosen by Express readers. Perhaps that confidence in his abilities is why he was appointed by Governor Engler as one of three vets heading up the Michigan Board of Veterinary Medicine.
Dr. Aja and his wife Rhonda established the Cherry Bend Animal Hospital in 1987. Besides caring for hundreds of area pets, the couple are ardent animal lovers who have five dogs, three cats and a horse as part of their family.
When he‘s not caring for animals, Dr. Aja enjoys the fitness lifestyle, including competing in marathons.

Best Michigan Pro Athlete: Steve Yzerman, Detroit Red Wings
Worst Michigan Pro Athlete: Detroit Lions quarterback Joey Harrington

Best Massage Therapists
• Lisa Wamsley -- Maternity Massage
• Tina Putman -- Massage Wellness
• Ellen Wetherholt
• K.B. Sutton, Leelanau
• Theresa Cavanaugh, Impres
Honorable Mentions to:
• Sigrid Hanson, Petoskey
• Merri Crawford, manton
• Sylvia Knoll, Elk Rapids
• Eric Petersen
• Doug McGrew
• Matt Dyer
• Aaron Markel
• Sara Bobowski
• Ryan Planck, Petoskey
• Autumn Nancarrow
• Heidi Kaufmann, Bellaire
• Jody Mazon, Gaylord
• Tammy Proctor
• Kristin White, Petoskey
• Stephen Popp
• Kevin Rist
• Sam Sharp, Petosky
• Christine Berg
• Cindy Sniff, Acme
• Marla Steinhoff, East Jordan
• Diane Senter
• Christina Ballard
• Janet Stutzman

Best Personal Trainers
• Sue Cole -- The Sweatshop, TC
• Mary Hancock -- Curves, Boyne City
• Doug Petersen -- Fitness Center, TC
• Teresa Powers -- Powerhouse Gym, Gaylord
• Rob Moats -- Bentley‘s, Petoskey

Best Radio Station:
Here‘s how readers ran this one down:
1. Interlochen Public Radio, 91.5
2. WTCM, AM 580
3. The Fox, 94.5
4. Modern Rock, WKLT. 97.5
5. The Zone, 95.5
6. The Bear, 98.1
7. KHQ, 106
8. The Peak, 107

Best Waitpersons
Whoa boy! -- usually we get dozens of responses for “best waitstaff“ which list only one name, such as Danielle at North Peak or Amy at Shooters. Following are some of the many waitstaff personnel who Express readers mentioned in full as their choice for “the best“:
-- Eric Wood, Outback
-- Joe Tylutki, Minerva‘s
-- Christine Mueller, U&I
-- Chrissy O‘Rourke, U&I
-- Lori Kuipers, Brady‘s
-- Martha Conklin, Red Mesa Grill
-- Mark Bears, Red Mesa Grill
-- Dawn McGeorge
-- Glen Rau, North Peak
-- Randal Kamps, Cracker Barrel
-- Becky Clapp, Cabbage Shed
-- Mende De Vinney, 310
-- Jennifer Schultz, Minerva‘s
-- Mike Gauthier, Poppycock‘s
-- Tracy Smart
-- Kim Getz, Pearl‘s
-- Sheri Gibbons, Red Mesa Grill
-- Jessica Sherry, Friendly‘s Tavern
-- Deb Stephens, Cracker Barrel
-- Traci Williams, Cracker Barrel
-- Bea LeJeune, Chianti‘s
-- Amy Smith, Lulu‘s
-- Dietta Wester, Sugar Bowl
-- Stacy Young, Lulu‘s
-- Melissa Colby, Red Mesa Grill
-- Margaret Brief, U&I
-- Lynn Guba, Union Street
-- Jen Hall, U&I
-- Michael Kemler, Travino‘s
-- Libby Patterson, Union Street
-- Ben Cole, Applebee‘s
-- Julie Whiting, Sleder‘s
-- Sue Louiselle, Harbor Cafe.
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