Our Staff

Ty Schmidt :: Executive Director

A Canadian import from friendly Manitoba, Ty came to Traverse City in 2006 by way of Tucson, AZ. Along with his wife, Johanna, a Leelanau County native, Ty founded Norte in 2013 to advocate for more happy, healthy, strong communities. A physical therapist by training and recovering Cat 2 road/elite mountain bike racer, Ty now works fulltime at the Norte Clubhouse and rides at kid pace with his two boys, Carter and Jameson. He can often be seen at Carter’s Compost World HQ where he also volunteers as a bucket scrubber and pile turner. Contact Ty at ty@elgruponorte.org.

Ben Boyce :: Program Director

As Norte’s Program Director, Ben Boyce gets to do what he likes most: ride bikes and work with kids. A super dad, devoted husband, reggae lover and good with the wrenches, Ben is a Maybee, Michigan native now thriving in Traverse City. Contact Ben at ben@elgruponorte.org.

Jill Sill :: Business Manager

Headshot of Norte's Business Manager Jill Sill

Jill is passionate about connecting people of all ages and abilities with the outdoors. She has a long history of working with nonprofits as an environmental educator, high school teacher and administrator. Jill brings an eye for efficiency to the behind-the-scenes tasks at Norte. Her work provides a continuity that ensures Norte’s continued growth and resilience. She is an advocate for active living and social cohesion. She is happiest when outdoors. You can often find her beachcombing for Petoskey stones, photographing native plants at the Grand Traverse Commons, or paddleboarding on the bay, mountain biking the VASA. When she’s home, she’s rolling out homemade pasta with her husband, Andy, and their three children. Contact Jill at jill@elgruponorte.org

Gary Howe :: Advocacy and Communications Director

Gary has over 10-years of direct experience creating and advocating for public policy and planning processes in support of healthy transportation and engaging public spaces. He served as a City Commissioner for the City of Traverse City from 2013-2017. He is also a writer, a New York Times-published photographer, and has over 20 years of teaching experience in Asia, as an adjunct instructor at Northwestern Michigan College, and as a guest teacher in Traverse City. Contact Gary at gary@elgruponorte.org.

Abby Havill :: Program Coordinator

Abby is a Traverse City native who was born in the mountains of Vail, Colorado, which means she loves mountains and alpine skiing, but also biking, plant-based baking and cooking, yoga, writing, sustainable living, chocolate, and our northern Michigan community. After four years out West in Colorado, Abby moved back to Traverse City and soon met her husband, Will. She has many years of experience coaching skiing to the little ones and is now super excited to add mountain bike coach for Norte to the list! Contact Abby at abby@elgruponorte.org.

Lauren Dake :: Outreach Coordinator

Originally from New York State, Lauren migrated to Elk Rapids in 2014. An avid cyclist and runner for more than half her life, she garnered the nickname “Bike Girl” all through high school and college. She has earned degrees in Recreation Management, Nutrition, and Early Childhood Education, making Norte the perfect fit for her to advocate for happy, healthy communities. Since 2014, Lauren has served as a Planning Commissioner for The Village of Elk Rapids, with the goal of creating smart cities for long-term investment. When she’s not running or biking, she can be found gardening, helping a neighbor, planning her next house project, or enjoying downtime with her husband, James, and daughter, Mira. Contact Lauren at lauren@elgruponorte.org.

Jessie Williams :: Communications Coordinator

Jessie is a Traverse City native and a Program in the Environment student at the University of Michigan — go blue! She is passionate about making the Traverse City area accessible and sustainable. When she’s not hiking or biking, Jessie is usually pampering her two cats or reading a good book. Contact Jessie at jessie@elgruponorte.org.