Community Leaders Recognized as Local Agents of Change

The business community gathered to celebrate eight community leaders and initiatives that were recognized as the 2016 Agents of Change. Those recognized range from business reinventions to unique festivals and events, education initiatives and art installations.


(from left to right) Allen Serio, Toni Seyferth, Ellen Berends, Hoby Thrasher, John Hermanson, Barb Hermanson, RandiLynn Talsma, Jason Talsma, Megan Byard-Karaba, John Severson and Erin Kuhn

“The Muskegon Lakeshore is quickly evolving,” says Cindy Larsen, president of the Muskegon Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce. “These passionate individuals are dramatically changing the landscape of our community, and deserve recognition for their efforts.”

Each year, the Muskegon Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce recognizes individuals or projects that have made a positive contribution to the Muskegon Lakeshore and awards them as Agents of Change.

This year’s Agents of Change were recognized at the Ninth Annual Agents of Change Business After Hours celebration on November 3, 2016 at Bella Maria’s Ristorante & Event Center.  This event was produced by the Muskegon Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce, in partnership with WGVU Public Media.

Here are the 2016 projects and businesses recognized as 2016 Agents of Change:

Hoby Thrasher, Bear Lake Tavern
Thanks to Hoby Thrasher, the historic Bear Lake Tavern has been reinvented for the next generation. This building and business turnaround is an outstanding example of how an entrepreneur can preserve local history while modernizing and rebranding a locally-owned business.

Jason & RandiLynn Talsma, Blended Furniture Market
Turning a closed drug store into a destination furniture retail center takes vision, creativity and a lot of hard work.  Jason and RandiLynn Talsma moved their business from Holland to Norton Shores creating a furniture store that caters to area residents with style and taste.

Lakeshore Brewer’s Guild, Burning Foot Beer Festival
The Lakeshore Brewer’s Guild turned their one-of-a-kind festival at Pere Marquette Beach into a Midwest craft beer celebration! Allen Serio’s brainchild is an event showcasing our community’s greatest asset, the beach, and shines a light on local craft beer businesses.

Ellen Berends, First Fridays
Ellen’s “First Fridays” concept is bringing thousands of people to Downtown Muskegon on the first Friday of every month.  This family-friendly event series has included street performers, a “Touch the Trucks,” parade, bonfires and more.  First Fridays energizes Western Avenue with vibrancy and fun for new and returning visitors.

John Severson & Megan Byard-Karaba, Muskegon Area Promise
The Muskegon Area Promise came to fruition under the fresh direction and determination of John Severson and Megan Byard-Karaba. This program offers graduating high school students access to two-year college degrees, tuition free in Muskegon County. John and Megan worked closely with a volunteer board and state officials to capture final approval on this critical education program.

Toni Seyferth, Muskegon STAR! Student Program
Educator Toni Seyferth brought the popular Muskegon STAR! Program to our community’s youth. Toni created the first Muskegon STAR! Student Program at North Muskegon High School.  This first STAR! Student class equipped teenage participants with soft-skills, facts and information needed to effectively promote the area’s assets.  This class is now being modeled in other school districts across Muskegon County.

Erin Kuhn, Port Day Celebration
Muskegon’s first ever “Port Day” was the vision and coordination of Erin Kuhn.  Business and community leaders from across the state, and beyond, came to the shores of Muskegon Lake to learn about and celebrate the Port of Muskegon.  The event highlighted the capabilities of the deep-water port in an effort to attract and expand business. Hopefully, many of you were able to see Erin earlier this evening before she needed to leave early for a previous commitment.

John & Barb Hermanson, Sails Ablaze Art Installation
A passion for Muskegon Lake and creative vision lead John and Barb Hermanson to raise over $144,000 for the art installation Sails Ablaze.  The sculpture, by artist Steven Anderson, honors the story of the Lyman Davis, the fastest and last commercial sailing ship on the Great Lakes whose journey tragically ended in an intentional fire.  The drama of this time period will be remembered by all thanks to John and Barb.