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Michigan's Newest Legislative Members

MIRS guide to the 97th Legislature's 26 new members

The Michigan Information & Research Service Inc. (MIRS) has generously granted permission to reprint its guide to the 97th Legislature's 26 new members.

Readers may find it of interest that all but four of these new members appear to have previously held another office, worked for a special interest group, or worked for a unit of government, a public school, a government-funded entity, or a government employee union.

Theresa Abed, D-Grand Ledge, 71st District - N 1090 HOB - 
(517) 373-0853 -

Personal Career: Abed served two terms on the Eaton County Commission from 2007 to 2010. She ran for the Michigan House in 2010, coming up short against Rep. Deb Shaughnessy. But two years later, Abed returned and unseated Shaughnessy in a rematch.

Work Experience: Abed has worked in Michigan schools for the last 30 years. Most recently, she was a social worker for the Eaton Intermediate School District.

Education: She has a bachelor’s degree in social work from Wayne State University and a master’s degree in social work from Wayne State University.

Personal: Abed has two grown children: David, age 27, and Kimberly, age 24.

Brian Banks, D-Grosse Pointe Woods, 1st District - S 0585 HOB - 
(517) 373-0154 -
Personal Career: Banks was a first-time political candidate when he ran for the 1st District seat in 2012. He won a five-way Democratic primary to become the party’s nominee. Then, in the general election, Banks won the 1st District seat overwhelmingly despite questions about his past criminal record.

Work Experience: He has worked as an elementary school teacher and has sat on the advisory board for the Wayne State University Criminal Justice Department. He has also worked as an adjunct professor for Baker College and on the staff of the law firm Rodnick Unger and Kaner PC.

Education: He has a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree from Wayne State University. He studied law at Michigan State University. Most recently, he’s been studying for his doctorate.

Personal: Banks dropped out of high school in the 11th grade. A few months later, his family convinced him to return and eventually, education became a focus for his life.

Winnie Brinks, D-Grand Rapids, 76th District - N 1095 HOB - 
(517) 373-0822 -

Personal Career: A first-time candidate, Brinks became the Democratic nominee for the 76th District seat after former Rep. Roy Schmidt switched parties to become a Republican in 2012. Brinks went on to easily defeat Schmidt in the general election.

Work Experience: Brinks previously worked as the executive director of The One Way House, a nonprofit corrections agency. More recently, Brinks worked as a case worker at The Source in Grand Rapids.

Education: She is a graduate of Calvin College, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in Spanish with a concentration in sociology.

Personal: Her husband’s name is Steve. They have three children.

Terry Brown, D-Pigeon, 84th District - S 1188 HOB - 
(517)-373-0476 -

Personal Career: Brown served two terms in the House before losing his race for re-election in 2010. Then, in 2012, Brown, one of the Democratic caucus’s more conservative members, returned to win his third term.

Work Experience: Brown worked 23 years for the Huron Intermediate School District. He began his tenure as a social worker and became principal of the Huron Learning Center. Brown has also been an ordained minister for more than 30 years.

Education: He has bachelor’s degree in social work and psychology from Graceland University, a master’s degree in social work from Michigan State University and a master’s degree in educational administration from Grand Valley State University.

Personal: Brown’s wife’s name is Carol. They have three children.

Tom Cochran, D-Mason, 67th District - S 1086 HOB - 
(517) 373-0587 -

Personal Career: Cochran served three terms on the Mason School Board before winning his seat in the House in 2012.

Work Experience: Cochran served as a Lansing firefighter and paramedic for 28 years. In that time, he was the department’s chief and a union representative. He retired in January 2012.

Education: He has an associate’s degree in fire science from Lansing Community College and a bachelor’s degree from Siena Heights University.

Personal: Cochran and his wife, Kathy, are the parents of three sons.

Scott Dianda, D-Calumet, 110th District - S 1489 - 
(517) 373-0850 -

Personal Career: Dianda served as a trustee for the Village of Calumet before running for the 110th House District seat. In 2010, Dianda lost to former Rep. Matt Huuki by about 3,000 votes. But in a rematch in 2012, Dianda unseated Huuki by more than 1,000 votes.

Work Experience: After owning a retail store in Calumet, he worked for the Michigan Department of Transportation.

Education: Dianda has a degree from Lake Superior State University and attended Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.

Personal: His wife’s name is Debbie. Dianda is a lifelong resident of the Upper Peninsula.

Gretchen Driskell, D-Saline, 52nd District - S 0986 HOB - 
(517) 373-0828 -

Personal Career: Driskell served on the Saline City Council and became the city’s mayor in 1999. She was Saline’s longest serving and first female mayor. In the 2012 House election, she unseated Rep. Mark Ouimet.

Work Experience: She has worked as a commercial real estate agent and an accountant.

Education: Driskell received her MBA from George Washington University and her bachelor’s degree in accounting from Lynchburg College.

Personal: Driskell’s family moved to Michigan in 1988. She has three children.

Pam Faris, D-Clio, 48th District - N 0987 HOB - 
(517) 373-7557 -

Personal Career: The wife of former Lt. Gov. John Cherry, Faris won the 48th District seat in 2012 after a competitive primary race against Shorty Gleason.

Work Experience: Faris worked 14 years as an employee in the Genesee County Circuit Court system. She also worked in the automobile industry and was a member of UAW Local 581.

Education: She has an associate’s degree from Mott Community College and a bachelor’s degree from Baker College.

Personal: Faris and her husband have two children.

Martin Howrylak, R-Troy, 41st District - N 0890 HOB - 
(517) 373-1783 -

Personal Career: Howrylak served on the Troy City Council from 2000 to 2011. He was the city’s mayor pro tem from 2002 to 2003 and 2007 to 2009. He won a competitive primary and a close general election race in 2012 to become the district’s representative.

Work Experience: He is a licensed and practicing certified public accountant in private practice in Troy. He has been a local business owner since 1990.

Education: He received a bachelor’s degree with an emphasis in geological sciences from the University of Michigan in 1998 and a master’s degree in accounting from the University of Michigan in 2003.

Personal: Howrylak’s wife’s name is Jane.

Tim Kelly, R-Saginaw, 94th District - N 1198 HOB - 
(517) 373-0837 -

Personal Career: Kelly, who worked in state government in Indiana before moving to Michigan, ran for the House in 2006, losing in the GOP primary. Four years later, in 2010, he won election as a Saginaw County Commissioner. In 2012, he won the 94th District seat.

Work Experience: Having worked in state government in Indiana, Kelly moved to Michigan in 1995 to work as an education policy adviser for former Gov. John Engler. He also worked as special adviser to the director of the former Department of Career Development.

Education: He has a bachelor’s degree in mass communications from the University of Denver.

Personal: Kelly and his wife, Deenie, have two sons.

Klint Kesto, R-Commerce Township, 39th District - S 0888 HOB - 
(517) 373-1799 -

Personal Career: A first-time House candidate, Kesto won a competitive six-way primary in August 2012 to become the Republican nominee for the 39th District. In the general election, he defeated his Democratic opponent by about 3,000 votes.

Work Experience: For more than five years, Kesto served as a prosecuting attorney with the Wayne County Prosecutor’s office. He has previously worked for the United States Department of Energy and the United States Department of Justice.

Education: Kesto graduated from the University of Michigan with a political science degree in 2002 and then attended Wayne State University Law School, graduating in 2006.

Personal: Kesto became the first Chaldean member of the Legislature in 2013.

John Kivela, D-Marquette, 109th District - S 1488 HOB - 
(517) 373-0498 -

Personal Career: Kivela was elected to the Marquette City Commission in 2006. He served as the city’s mayor from 2008 to 2012, when he won a competitive primary and a competitive general election race to take the 109th House District seat.

Work Experience: Kivela has done just about everything in the automobile business. He grew up working in his family’s auto repair and distributor business. Later, he became general manager of a used car dealership. Civic Activities: He has been a member of the Marquette Rotary Club, the Elks Club, the Marquette County Chapter of the Paisano Club and the Home Builder’s Association.

Personal: He and his wife, Sandy, have two children.

David Knezek, D-Dearborn Heights, 11th District - N 0690 HOB -
(517) 373-0849 -

Personal Career: Knezek was student body president at the University of Michigan-Dearborn before running for the 11th House District seat.

Work Experience: Knezek is an Iraq War veteran. In addition to his military career, he has worked as a substitute teacher in Wayne County.

Education: He has a degree in political science from the University of Michigan-Dearborn.

Personal: For much of 2007, 2008 and 2009, Knezek was stationed in Iraq. He was a member of a scout sniper platoon. His mission was to go on patrols and to help gather intelligence for the military.

Robert Kosowski, D-Westland, 16th District - N 0695 HOB - 
(517) 373-2576 -
Personal Career: Despite having worked in government, Kosowski’s first run for political office came in 2012, when he won the 16th District seat.

Work Experience: Kosowski has worked in municipal government for about two decades. Most recently, he worked as the City of Westland’s parks and recreation director.

Education: Kosowski studied business management at Adrian College and Wayne State University.

Personal: He and his wife, Elizabeth, have two sons: Andrew and Austin. The family has resided in Westland for nearly 20 years.

Collene Lamonte, D-Montague, 91st District - N 1195 HOB - 
(517) 373-3436 -

Personal Career: Having never run for political office before, Lamonte got in the race for the 91st House District and won in 2012, unseating Rep. Holly Hughes. Lamonte won by less than 400 votes.

Work Experience: She previously worked as a math and science teacher at Muskegon High School.

Education: Before becoming a teacher, Lamonte studied at Saginaw Valley State University.
Personal: She and her husband, Jeff, have two children.

Dan Lauwers, R-Brockway, 81st District - S 1185 HOB - 
(517) 373-1790 -

Personal Career: After college graduation, Lauwers worked in Washington, D.C., for then-Rep. Bill Schuette and for the National Milk Producers Federation. However, Lauwers’ first run for office came in 2012, when he won the 81st District seat.

Work Experience: He is owner and general manager of Eastern Michigan Grain. Previously, he worked for the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the National Milk Producers Federation.

Education: He has a bachelor’s degree in agricultural economics from Michigan State University.

Personal: He and his wife, Kellie, have three children.

Bill LaVoy, D-Monroe, 17th District - N 0696 HOB - 
(517) 373-1530 -

Personal Career: LaVoy is the son of retired Judge Willian LaVoy. However, 2012 marked LaVoy’s first run for public office. He won the Democratic primary for the 17th District seat by about 300 votes. Then, in the general, LaVoy won by more than 8,000 votes.

Work Experience: For about 14 years, LaVoy worked as the executive director of Monroe Public Access Cable Television.

Education: He is a graduate of Leadership Monroe. He attended Monroe Catholic Central High School and the University of Michigan.

Personal: LaVoy and his wife, Michelle, live in Monroe with their children, Grace and Carolyn.

Tom Leonard, R-DeWitt Township, 93rd District - N 1197 HOB - 
(517) 373-1778 -

Personal Career: In his first run for public office, Leonard won the 93rd District seat in 2012.

Work Experience: He worked as an assistant attorney general for the state and as a prosecutor for Genesee County.

Education: He has a bachelor’s degree in history and Spanish from the University of Michigan and a law degree from Michigan State University.

Personal: His wife’s name is Jenell. Before deciding to practice criminal law, Leonard once considered becoming a sports agent.

Mike McCready, R-Bloomfield Hills, 40th District - S 0889 HOB - 
(517) 373-8670 -

Personal Career: Before running for the House, McCready served three terms as a Bloomfield Hills City Commissioner and on the zoning board of appeals and the planning commission.

Work Experience: He is the principal owner of McCready & Associates in Birmingham, a small business that has represented commercial furniture manufacturers in Michigan since 1991.

Education: He is a 1983 graduate of Western Michigan University.

Personal: Mike and his wife, Yvonne, live in Bloomfield Hills and have two daughters.

Dave Pagel, R-Berrien Springs, 78th District - N 1097 HOB - 
(517) 373-1796 -

Personal Career: Pagel served on the Berrien Springs School Board from 1993-2006. Then, he served as a Berrien County Commissioner from 2009-2012. In 2012, Pagel won his first term in the House.

Work Experience: At age of 23, Pagel took over a neighbor’s produce marketing business and saw an opportunity to build a relationship with supermarkets. Over the years, the business, Dave Pagel Produce, gradually developed.

Education: Pagel has a bachelor’s degree in agricultural business from Michigan State University.

Personal: He and his wife, Sue, reside in Berrien Springs and have two sons and two daughters. Many know Pagel simply as “The Apple Guy.”

Sarah Roberts, D-St. Clair Shores, 18th District - N 0697 HOB - 
(517) 373-1180 -

Personal Career: Roberts is a former Macomb County Commissioner. She first served in the House from 2009-2010. However, she lost her bid for re-election in 2010. Then, for 2012, she was redistricted into an open district, in which she won a second term.

Work Experience: She has worked as a community advocate for Clean Water Action. Most recently, she worked as the legislative director for the Economic Alliance for Michigan.

Education: Roberts graduated from the University of Iowa.

Personal: Roberts is a native and current resident of St. Clair Shores. She volunteers as a local coordinator for Green Michigan and as an Adopt-A-Road organizer.

Rose Mary Robinson, D-Detroit, 4th District - S 0588 HOB - 
(517) 373-1008 -

Personal Career: Robinson was first elected a Democratic precinct delegate in 1966. Then, in 1968, she was elected as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention. She became one of the first women ever elected to the Wayne County Commission in 1970. She was elected to six consecutive terms on the commission from 1970-1982. She won an 11-way primary to become the Democratic Party’s nominee for the 4th District in 2012.

Work Experience: She is an accomplished lawyer and is a former attorney for the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees Union Council 25. She has spent the last decades, representing indigent clients.

Education: Robinson received her law degree from Wayne State University.

Personal: Robinson raised six children. She has been inducted into the Michigan Women’s Historical Center Hall of Fame.

Andy Schor, D-Lansing, 68th District - S 1087 HOB - 
(517) 373-0826 -

Personal Career: Schor was elected an Ingham County Commissioner in 2002. He was reelected four times before deciding to run for an open seat in the House in 2012.

Work Experience: Most recently, Schor worked as assistant director of state affairs for the Michigan Municipal League. But he’s also worked as an aide for then-Sen. Gary Peters and then-Rep. Paul Condino.

Education: He has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan.

Personal: Schor’s wife is Erin. They have two children, Ryan and Hannah.

Sam Singh, D-East Lansing 69th District - S 1088 HOB - 
(517) 373-1786 -

Personal Career: Three years after graduating from Michigan State University, Singh was elected at the age of 24 to the East Lansing City Council. He won re-election for two additional terms. In 2005, he was elected as the youngest mayor in the city’s history.

Work Experience: Singh has worked as a senior consultant for the New Economic Initiative for Southeast Michigan and as a consultant for Public Policy Associates. Singh has also been president and CEO of the Michigan Nonprofit Association.

Education: He has a bachelor’s degree in history from Michigan State University.
Personal: Singh is the Michigan House’s first Indian-American member. His wife’s name is Kerry.

Rob VerHeulen, R-Walker, 74th District - N 1093 HOB -
(517) 373-8900 -

Personal Career: VerHeulen served as mayor of Walker from 2001-2012. He first ran for the House in 2010, losing his bid for the 86th District seat in the primary to Rep. Lisa Lyons. Two years later, he won in the 74th District.

Work Experience: Most recently, he worked as general counsel for the Meijer Foundation. He has practiced law in West Michigan since 1978.

Education: He attended Grand Rapids Community College. He has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan and his law degree from the Wayne State School of Law.

Personal: VerHeulen and his wife, Norma, have lived in Walker for three decades. They have four daughters and eight grandchildren

Roger Victory, R-Hudsonville, 88th District - N 1192 HOB - 
(517) 373-1830 -

Personal Career: A first-time candidate, Victory won the GOP primary for the 88th District seat in 2012 by less than 100 votes.

Work Experience: He owns Victory Farms, LLC, a specialty crop producer and Victory Sales, LLC, a national produce distributor. He previously co-owned a trucking company.

Education: He has an associate’s degree in logistics from Davenport University and a bachelor’s degree in business management from Davenport University.

Personal: Victory’s career in agriculture has its roots in junior high school. As a sixth-grader, Victory’s father had a farming operation, so Victory decided to start growing his own vegetables and selling them at flea markets.

Henry Yanez, D-Sterling Heights, 25th District - S 0789 HOB - 
(517) 373-2275 -

Personal Career: Yanez was a delegate for the 2004 and 2008 Democratic national conventions. He ran for Congress in 2010, losing to Rep. Candice Miller, R-Harrison Township. He ran for the Michigan House instead of the U.S. House in 2012. Yanez won the 25th District seat by more than 1,000 votes on Election Day.

Work Experience: Yanez worked as a firefighter for 18 years. He retired from firefighting to take his seat in the House in 2013.

Education: He attended Oakland Community College.

Personal: In the fall/winter of 2012, Yanez won election to the House, got engaged, retired from the fire department and found out he will become a grandfather.

Adam Zemke, D-Ann Arbor, 55th District - S 0989 HOB - 
(517) 373-1792 -

Personal Career: Having worked in politics and government previously, Zemke ran for Washtenaw County Commissioner in 2010 and lost. In 2012, he decided to go for the Michigan House and won election at the age of 29.

Work Experience: Zemke has worked in the automobile industry. On the political side, he has previously worked for former Rep. Kathy Angerer.

Education: He earned a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in mechanical engineering from Michigan State University.

Personal: Zemke is a fifth-generation Washtenaw County resident, who has lived in the community his entire life.

New member profiles courtesy the Michigan Information & Research Service Inc.