In Muskegon we have some distinct mindsets. We have what was. We have what is. We have what could be. We have very vocal people around all three of those mindsets and we also have plenty of people who are willing to be vocal about them if they are passionate about what they believe.
All of these characteristics are in any community, but what makes Muskegon unique in them to me, is the size of our town.. the availability of truly relevant media that's not 100% driven by clicks, shares and profits and our silos. We have our groups and together we all stand for what matters most and through the experience of generations, we know too that more than one has come to town trying to accomplish something.... and then they left.
Normally, I would wait until the dust settles in and around any kind of "big project". I have been watching the progress of some of the development down around Muskegon Lake and while I am not able to catch every second of every City Commission Meeting, or radio interview or 15 second soundbite on tv...I have noticed a gap. I too have noticed some reactions that are a little out of our normal discord...and well, I thought maybe it was time for a little different angle so, I decided to make a call, see if Ryan Leestma would spend a few minutes and try things my way. No pressure for a "gotcha moment" from some radio host. No back and forth about who's developing what, where, and what deal happened. No court battles to quote...no galleries of protesters, just to tell me his story. I had only met his wife Emily once at the Bear Lake Tavern when we did a story about the new Tiki Bar with drive up take out service for boaters coming this summer...so, I wasn't sure what I was walking in to.
We met a day ahead, I didn't have my camera with me, and Ryan said come on back tomorrow and we can talk. I made it pretty clear that all of the back and forth and legal stuff was way above my pay grade, so if we could keep it to his story, how he came to know Muskegon and what the long term goal of this project is, I'd really like to present that. Through the snow I went back this morning and within 5 minutes we had the camera rolling and off we went.
Without giving away the entire conversation, I will tell you that I was surprised at what Ryan was able to, and willing to share when it comes to project vision and wisdom. I too was very surprised to learn the path it took to get a guy so young motivated to the level he is and driven to make sure that history didn't repeat itself from personal life experience. I share some of the things he does when it comes to grit, drive and willingness to fight for what he believes in and I think I could learn a great deal from him about taking a chance. I am one that takes a much more cautious approach on most everything where as Ryan....lights the fuse and goes. Both are adequate approaches....it's personal comfort zones that we set and work by that manage our lives.
I ask you to listen all the way through. I ask you to listen with an open mind and with the consideration that the guy is here and willing to share his story minus someone jumping in with an "AH HA" or trying to cozy up to a guest to find a way to make a buck. I offered Ryan the floor, he took it.
I walked in not knowing what to expect, and honestly....I felt in over my head. In a lot of ways...I would be if it came down to splitting hairs over legalities, ordnances and amounts of money I'll never understand. I walked in and looked looked past the noise that everyone else in media tries to create for clicks and reaction and just asked a guy to be a dreamer and tell me what his long term is. I don't think Ryan went into the project under any assumptions that it would be easy...I hope that having a chance to just talk helps us all remember that it's in our collective efforts that we remember the past, we live in the now and the future can be what we want it to be.