Faces In the Crowd: Ashlee Flachs

June 8, 2018

By Aaron Michell

Ashlee Flachs wants to help you find your happy place.
After all, that is her motto – her Rockgate Real Estate office in downtown Evart bears those words across its window: Find Your Happy Place.
For Ashlee, that place is – and always has been – Evart, Michigan.
A cheerleading coach and former Evart cheerleader herself, Ashlee holds the unofficial title as community cheerleader. Enthusiastic, positive, motivating, encouraging – these are just some of the adjectives used to describe the 2004 Evart graduate.
Another adjective is ‘busy’.
‘Busy’ as in being involved in numerous community organizations, including the Evart Chamber of Commerce, Rising Tide, Evart Businesswomen, Friends of Evart, and Michigan Main Street – to name just a few.
‘Busy’ as in raising a family. Ashlee and her husband, Michael, together raise their 5 kids from their 14 Mile Road home just north of Evart.
And as the lone Realtor from her Evart office, the spring real estate season has kept Ashlee very busy indeed.
So how does she do it? We set out to find the answer to that question when we visited her office recently, and wound up finding out much more. We found out that she likes to race derby cars, listen to Carrie Underwood music, spend time on her boat, and of course, cheer. Always a cheerleader for her kids, her family, and her community, Ashlee Flachs is more than just another face in the crowd.

Ashley and Michael Flachs and family, L-R: Kelsey, Michael, Kullen, Mari, Ashley, Karter, and Kayleb.

Ashley and Michael Flachs and family, L-R: Kelsey, Michael, Kullen, Mari, Ashley, Karter, and Kayleb.

MP: You were born and raised right here in Evart, right?
Ashlee: Yep. My grandfather was a minister, so I was raised very conservative. My brother, Jason O’Dell, is the middle school principal, currently. I graduated class of ’04.

MP: What was high school like here in Evart?
Ashlee: I liked it; it was fun. It’s just a small-town community and that’s why I never left. I always knew, you could drive a car and if you get a flat tire – and since you knew everybody – all the surrounding houses you can knock on their door comfortably and not have to worry about it. There was always some one there to help you out.
I was a cheerleader in high school, and I’ve always been the biggest cheerleader for Evart, so that’s carried on.

MP: And you coach cheerleading as well. What got you into cheerleading?
Ashlee: The enthusiasm of the whole sport. And once it switched to competitive it was a whole new ballfield. I liked being excited and supporting people: Supporting the community. Supporting the school. Supporting my team. And then when cheerleading switched over to being more competitive, that’s when I said, I’m all in.

MP: How long have you been coaching cheerleading?
Ashlee: 13 years with the middle school and JV programs.

MP: What is your favorite part?
Ashlee: Making a difference in children’s lives. Being able to have a relationship with them every single day and being able to develop a level of trust, where they can open up to me – and by the end of season they do. And I can find ways to kind of help them throughout their lives. Knowing that I can have an impact in that way, is huge to me. I’ll have former cheerleaders stop by [my office] and say, ‘Thanks coach for everything you did, this is what I’m doing now…’ That’s awesome. And you get to work with great people like Danyel [Prielipp] at Marion. She’s awesome.

Ashlee in front of her office in downtown Evart.

Ashlee in front of her office in downtown Evart.

MP: And outside of real estate and cheerleading, you’re involved in a lot of other things at school and around town.
Ashlee: I sub at the school, periodically. I’m involved with the Rising Tide board.

MP: Could you explain to us what Rising Tide is?
Ashlee: Rising Tide was started here to revitalize the community, specifically housing. What they’re trying to do is, for example, put in standards for tenant-landlord relationships; creating housing – taking buildings and turning them around, and improving them. They’re trying to revitalize housing; it’s basically the Evart Housing Commission – that’s what it started out as. We meet every month with habitat for humanity, legislators, and other organizations to see what the housing issues are in the area and how we can help fix them.

MP: It sounds like there’s a lot of development going on here in Evart.
Ashlee: Yes. Michigan Main Street is huge. They select two to three areas every year to come in and completely revitalize the main street and surrounding areas. They selected Evart this year and that was a huge deal. I’m on the economic and vitality board with that program.

MP: What got you into real estate?
Ashlee: Some friends talked to me about it; kind of talked about the opportunities in real estate. And then Tricia Wirth opened the door for me to be an assistant at Rivertown [Realty of Big Rapids]. I was her assistant for a year, and then I grew into being my own little agent. And I wanted to be in Evart and that’s where I ended up. I started with Rockgate Real Estate and we opened this office this past year.

MP: What is your favorite part of the job?
Ashlee: Closings. On closing day, it can be the greatest day of both the buyer’s and seller’s lives. Just yesterday at my closing, the [seller] was like, ‘I’m so excited!’ And the buyer was like, ‘I’m so excited!’ And they’re both looking at me like, what do you think!?
And I’m thinking: This is why I do my job. Because they were so excited. Kind of goes with that whole cheerleading thing.

MP: Well that can be a big part of the job.
Ashlee: To cheer them on all the way!

MP: Yes! To be enthusiastic.
Ashlee: And sometimes it’s sad, when people are selling their homestead and moving on with their life – especially if their children grew up there. But being able to show them the new family and the memories that the new family is going to create – and the legacy that will go on from that – it’s just amazing. I love hearing the history of the home and being able to watch it transition: sometimes you’ll sell a home and see it six months later and see the difference; it’s awesome.

Wedding photo, L-R: Kayleb, Karter, Ashlee and Michael, Kullen, Mari, and Kelsey.

Wedding photo, L-R: Kayleb, Karter, Ashlee and Michael, Kullen, Mari, and Kelsey.

MP: Let’s talk about your family. 5 kids – that’s a big family!
Ashlee: Mari, she’s 14. She’s my stepdaughter. We’re really close. She’s a cheerleader. Kayleb’s 10. Karter’s 6, Kullen’s 4, and Kelsee’s 1.

MP: Those are fun ages. All over the board! What do they like to do?
Ashlee: I know! They’re involved in sports; they love sports. The boys all have quads; they like to quad, they like to fish, typical boy stuff. Mari’s in gymnastics – I’m able to coach her in that. We teach gymnastics as part of cheerleading every day.

MP: Okay, the flips, the cartwheels. That makes sense.
Ashlee: If you’re going to win, you have to have gymnastics.

MP: What is it about the community of Evart that you love so much?
Ashlee: I like the small-town community stereotype. I like the school system. I love that we’re always willing – as a community – to continue growth. I like that I can be a part of committees where people look at others with an open mind. They look at me as bringing more to the table, where other communities might look at you as an outsider. It’s a warm, cozy feeling here. It’s safe.

MP: As a cheerleader for you community, what are the big draws? If someone was to ask, ‘Why should I go hang out in Evart?’ – how would you respond?
Ashlee: You can’t drive only a couple miles and you’re at a lake, for one. You have lake access all over the place. We have the [Muskegon] River, which you can tube on, non-stop. We have tons of events going on – almost every other weekend there’s an event going on in town. We do the music festival; there’s a lot of things going on that draw people not only nationwide, but even worldwide. There’s the Woodcarver’s Festival and Dulcimer FunFest; the fair’s here. The state forest is here – up from 7 Mile Road all the way up to 15 Mile Road – tons of motorcycle trails through the forest.

MP: And you mentioned your grandfather was a minister.
Ashlee: Yes, Reverend James Estep, he was a reverend with the Evangel Assembly of God. And a lot of people still recognize me around town as the reverend’s granddaughter from when I was a little girl. My mom, Linda O’Dell-White, she lives on 13 Mile. She retired from Spectrum Health in Reed City. She’s a lifelong member of Evangel Assembly – she’s a pianist, and she’s big into the choir. Most people know her from the hospital. My brother Jason, he’s the middle school principal and the JV football coach; he sometimes coaches basketball.
My husband, Michael, he’s been a firefighter here in town for the past 20 years, and he’s worked for the Mecosta County Sheriff’s department. He graduated from Evart and a lot of people know him from being on the fire department. He’s very big into the community also.

MP: What’s the best advice that you’ve ever been given?
Ashlee: Always follow your dreams – never get discouraged. And always make time for your family.

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