Two county residents honored by Slotkin on floor of House

Two Livingston County people were among those honored by U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives on Feb. 25, 2020: Hartland’s Jessica Witkowski, one of the first female Eagle Scouts in the country, and Brighton’s Marcus Goller, a local community leader and small business owner who passed away last month.

Slotkin’s full remarks as prepared are below:

Jessica Witkowski, Hartland

I rise today to honor Jessica Witkowski, a young woman making a difference in her hometown of Hartland. For her efforts, she has earned the distinct honor of being one of the first female Eagle Scouts in the country.

Drawn by the Scouts’ emphasis on environmental stewardship, service to community, and development of leadership skills, Jessica joined the Scouts two years ago as a sophomore in high school, shortly after they opened membership to girls. She set her sights on a lofty goal: being a part of the inaugural class of female Eagle Scouts.

After building and installing bluebird houses in Settlers Park for her Life Scout rank, she started brainstorming Eagle Scout projects that would similarly align with her love of the outdoors. But soon after, the pandemic hit and stay-at-home orders forced a change. Like a good Scout, though, Jessica adapted. She soon realized that the greatest need in the community was for facemasks for seniors in retirement homes. 

Through Zoom meetings and video tutorials, she gathered sixteen of her classmates and set out to teach them how to create facemasks. The fact that she had never sewn before did not hold her back. Nor did the fact that she’d have to sew with gloves on in order to follow the best practices for sanitation and avoiding potential spread.

From start to finish, the project took two months. And by the time it was completed, Jessica and her determined group of volunteers had surpassed their initial goal and created 600 masks — which Jessica distributed to three local organizations taking care of seniors vulnerable to the pandemic. Last fall, on a tour of cider mills in my district, I actually ran into Jessica at Spicer Orchard. Even now, I can still remember her infectious personality and her 1000 watt smile even behind her facemask. She’s an impressive young woman and I’m proud to represent her here in Congress. 

Although we haven’t been able to hold her official Court of Honor due to the pandemic, I know that it will come and Jessica will be able to celebrate her achievement surrounded by friends and family. In the meantime, it is my personal honor to speak these remarks into the Congressional Record so that folks back home can read about her hard work and dedicated service to our community.

Marcus Goller, Brighton

I rise to pay tribute to Marcus Goller, a cornerstone of the Brighton community, who sadly passed away late last month. Marcus owned and operated the Brighton Coffeehouse and Theater alongside his wife, Amy, and their two kids, Spencer and Macy. 

The spot is a mainstay of downtown Brighton — a place to pop in for a quick coffee and pastry or to take in a show in its 70-seat black box theater. But before it was a reality, it was just a dream between a couple and their kids. Marcus had had a long career in the coffee business, running a chain of coffee shops in college towns all across the midwest. Amy had acted professionally and directed productions at Brighton High School. 

One day, while sitting in the children’s reading room at a small bookstore on Main Street, they had the idea of opening their own coffeehouse. What started that day as a dream became a reality in 2018, when Brighton Coffeehouse and Theater opened its doors and quickly became a cornerstone of downtown.

It’s the perfect place to gather. I still remember hosting a townhall conversation there in 2019 and the incredible sense of community that you felt as soon as you walk in the door. It’s the reason that student organizations and performers constantly use the space — because you immediately feel at home.

And as anyone will tell you, that’s because of Marcus. He was the soul of Brighton Coffeehouse — a quiet, kind presence. He treated visitors like neighbors and neighbors like family — always making sure that they were well served and had everything they needed.

It was his idea to start the “Brighton Yacht Club,” a fleet of dozens of little motorized remote-controlled sailboats that people could rent and sail on the Millpond just outside. He loved his business and the people loved his business back.

He’d be the first to tell you that it wasn’t always easy. That the road from a conversation to construction was filled with twists and turns and setbacks. But Marcus never met an obstacle he couldn’t overcome.

His passing is our loss. To Amy, Spencer, and Macy, to all those who knew Marcus and loved him, may they hold onto the dark roasts, the baked goods, and the theater productions that brought them closer together.

I speak these words today so that his legacy is forever remembered in the permanent record of the People’s House — letting all who read it know: Marcus Goller made a difference.

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The Livingston Post is the only locally owned, all-digital information and opinion site in Livingston County, Mich. It was launched by award-winning journalists who were laid off from the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus by Gannett Co. Inc. in 2009.

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