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.

Gary Howe :: Advocacy 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.

Ashlea Walter :: Development Director

An accomplished leader with creative ideas, Ashlea offers two decades of innovative community engagement, marketing, communications, and fundraising experience. She has honed and deployed her expertise across a diverse spectrum of sectors: the arts, political, finance and banking, education, recreation and tourism, small business, and nonprofit. Contact Ashlea at ashlea@elgruponorte.org.

Abby Havill :: Program & Events 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 an Environment and Communication & Media 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.