Kristin Fleetwood: Housing Community

Kristin Fleetwood: Housing Community

Questions & Answers with community faces

Kristin (Bradley) Fleetwood (34) grew up in Grand Rapids; she graduated from Northview High School in 2007. Fleetwood then attended Grand Valley State University, where she graduated in 2012 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in elementary education.

The road to that end was a bit winding, however; Fleetwood lived on the GVSU campus for three school years, the last being 2009-2010. During the summer of 2009, she moved to Benzie County to live with a friend and work in the Shop N Save deli. That summer, her friend, Adana Hagelstein—now deceased—introduced Kristin to Brian Fleetwood (41); as mentioned, Kristin went back to the GVSU campus that school year, and she and Brian were married the next year, in 2010. (Notably, she attended a job fair during the 2010 summer on the upper level of the Mills Community House, which will later become a big part of her story.) After the wedding, the Fleetwoods moved into a house together in Benzie County, and Kristin finished up her degree from GVSU via the Northwestern Michigan College University Center in Traverse City. The Fleetwoods now have three children, Jacob, Alice, and Walter. 

Between 2012 and 2015, Fleetwood worked as a front-desk receptionist at Harbor Lights Resort in the summers and as a substitute teacher at various local schools during the school year. Then from August 2015 through October 2022, Fleetwood worked for K12—a leader in online education for kindergarten through 12th grades that has served more than 2 million students since it began in 2000 by putting quality, hands-on, and online curriculum directly into the homes of families. K12 is headquartered in Virginia, but the school that Fleetwood worked for was called Michigan Great Lakes Virtual Academy, chartered by the Manistee Intermediate School District (ISD). Fleetwood worked as a “student support advisor” : at the beginning, she supported all of the elementary grade levels, but as the online school grew, she eventually worked with just 2nd grade students.

As of last month, the Mills Community House announced that Fleetwood will be the new executive director, overseeing daily operations and helping to fulfill the nonprofit organization’s mission to provide “stewardship and promotion of the historic Mills Community House as a venue for events and services that enrich lives.” Fleetwood will serve as the face of the organization; she will assist the board in developing relationships with public and private partners, donors, and volunteers. Additionally, Fleetwood will immediately begin assisting with long-range strategic planning and will help to build the Mills’ programming and presence within the community.

Continuing with our interview series on impactful Benzie County characters, The Betsie Current caught up with Fleetwood as she was finishing open office hours for the week.

The Betsie Current: Your background is in education, and now you are running the Mills Community House nonprofit—that seems like a pretty big career jump. What do you enjoy about this new line of work? What do you think your background in education is bringing to your new job?

Kristin Fleetwood: It is a big change, but I am loving every minute of it. Working in education is all about serving the community, and that is still basically what I am doing—just moving from the online community to the local one where I live. My previous position was all about supporting family engagement with the virtual school; I feel like that skill set is parallel to this new position, as I move into focusing on community engagement. Planning programming that excites and engages people of all ages will be a fun and new direction, after primarily working in lower elementary.  

Current: What does a typical day of work look like for you? 

Fleetwood: I don’t have a typical day just yet. There is so much that I am still learning, so the job is constantly evolving. But I have put some office hours in place for the spring—Mondays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. This time is set aside for people to pop in, tour the rental spaces, and ask questions.  
Current: What are you excited about? What is next for the Mills?

Fleetwood: We have a brick fundraiser that we are almost ready to launch. Currently, the Mills is a distinctive red brick building, so this will be a neat opportunity for people to put their names as a lasting part of the Mills—donors may purchase a brick for $100, and these will border the walkways, enhancing our beautiful grounds and gardens. There is some information about this fundraiser on our website already, but the gist is to raise funds for repairs and improvements to the building. Additionally, we have concerts and programs happening here over the summer, and we are working with the Benzonia Public Library on some joint programming, as well. It is too early in the planning process to share specifics yet, but stay tuned!

Current: What kinds of events happen at the Mills Community House—can you give our readers some examples of what a typical week might look like? And what kinds of special events can the Mills take on? What is the capacity?

Fleetwood: There are a range of both private and public events that happen at the Mills. Private events often include celebrations, such as weddings receptions and birthday or anniversary parties. Businesses also use our space to hold trainings and annual meetings. Public events can include municipal meetings; nonprofit programs such as the Plant it Wild events happening this summer and the library’s summer reading program. We also have hosted the Benzie County Players, Benzie County Community Chorus, 100+ Women Who Care, the ZONTA Festival, and the Benzie Area Historical Society’s monthly lecture series. The middle level, or main floor, of the Mills is used by the Benzonia Public Library. Meanwhile, the maximum room capacity on the lower level is 84; it most comfortably fits 50, when tables are in use. The upper level is larger and has a maximum capacity of 195 but more comfortably fits 120, when tables are in use.

Current: What kinds of things do you do for fun, when you are not working? What other things are you involved with? How did you get involved with them, and why are you passionate about these causes?  

Fleetwood: I love being outside. Walking Railroad Point trail [near the Mollineaux Road section of the Betsie Valley Trail] and taking our boat out on Crystal Lake are a couple of places we love to be as a family. I also enjoy reading and gardening—although the garden is still more of an aspirational hobby, I learn more every year. I am also a volunteer with ProMedica Home Health & Hospice; my role there is as a “friendly visitor.” I started the process to become a volunteer in December 2022 and completed the training in January 2023. ProMedica serves Antrim, Benzie, Grand Traverse, Kalkaska, and Leelanau counties. I got involved because my friend is the volunteer coordinator; she reached out to see if I knew anyone who would like to volunteer, because they needed more support in Benzie County, and I thought, “Me. I can do that, and I’d like to give back to the community this way.” It is honestly such a joy to visit, talk, and listen to the stories they want to share with me.  

Current: How have you seen Benzie County/Northern Michigan change since you first came up here a decade ago? What are your hopes for the area in the future?

Fleetwood: My husband and I both love to see all of the small businesses that are growing and succeeding. The collective ideal of shopping local and keeping our money in Benzie County shows how much the people in this community support each other. I know in the future that we would like to use the Mills to highlight local nonprofits and businesses who are working in and with the community.  

Current: What are the biggest challenges and rewards of living/working in Benzie County and in Northern Michigan, in general? What is the best or most rewarding part of your job?

Fleetwood: To be honest, I’m not really sure what the challenges are. I have been working from home for the last few years for a school that served children across the entire state, and I was fortunate to have good internet access where we live—we switched to Eclipse Communications while I was employed by K12 and have had great connection and service. Having a reliable connection was a requirement to work for and enroll in the [online] school, but there were definitely some issues through families not being able to afford internet or having their service disrupted due to life events, so that can be a challenge. The rewards, though, are bountiful. We live in such a spectacularly beautiful area. Our community is also full of loving and helpful people. The outpouring of support since taking this new job has been amazing—people lending resources, offering their expertise, connecting me with their networks, and offering their congratulations has meant the world to me. I’m still pretty new to this job, but so far, the best part has been meeting everyone. Spending time with our board members, the library staff and volunteers, and people who have rented our upper and lower levels has been a lot of fun. I’m really glad to be out in the community more.  

Current: What could Northern Michigan/Benzie County do to attract more talented people to this area? What else does Northern Michigan/Benzie County need?

Fleetwood: From what I hear in conversations around me, it sounds like what we really need is more housing.  Affordable housing. There is a lot of great local talent here, and I’d love to see them stay and be able to thrive here. 

Current: What are your favorite local events and activities? Any favorite dining, recreation, hiking spots?

Fleetwood: This is a fun question. For years, we have loved attending the Lakeside Shakespeare Theater performances over on Tank Hill in Frankfort—so glad to hear that they are coming back this summer. We also love the Benzie Bayou that Grow Benzie puts on in the summer. My husband also sometimes plays trombone with the Benzie Community Band; he played in the band the first summer that we met, and he’ll be joining them again this year. Live music outdoors is such a great experience. There is so much good food around here, too. St. Ambrose Cellars is one place we frequent. All the food trucks are fun to explore, too—especially Mary’s Asian Cuisine. We’re also huge fans of the sweets shed that Rains Grains and Sweets runs in Benzonia.  

Current: What does your perfect spring day look like in Benzie County? How would you spend it?

Fleetwood: The perfect spring day is sunny and 60 degrees. After months of gray winter weather, just being outside with the sun on my face and no coat needed feels like pure luxury. I like to spend those days outside with my family, either taking a leisurely walk or working on projects and yard clean-up.  

Learn more about the history of Mills Community House, as well as current and upcoming events, at and through “Mills Community House” on Facebook and @MillsCommunityHouse on Instagram. All questions can be sent through email to or by calling/texting 231-882-0591. Further, Fleetwood hosts office hours at the Mills on Mondays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Featured Photo Caption: Kristin Fleetwood is the new executive director of the Mills Community House. Photo coutesy of the Mills Community House.

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Aubrey Parker

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