2018-05-31 / Life in Leelanau

Talk of the County

Having a conversation with Jim Panek


JIM PANEK is known as the Pie King of Leelanau County. A retired corrections officer, Panek has been volunteering his time to back with inmates at the county jail for over a decade. JIM PANEK is known as the Pie King of Leelanau County. A retired corrections officer, Panek has been volunteering his time to back with inmates at the county jail for over a decade. Name: Jim Panek

Town or township of residence: Solon Township

Resident since: I’ve been living in my current home since 1985, but have spent nearly my whole life in Leelanau County.

Age and birthplace: 74 and Munson Hospital

Occupation: With everything I’ve done over the years, I think the best description would be a master of all trades.

Marital status: Mary Panek and I are just newlyweds. We were married nine months ago.

You live in Leelanau County because: I’m more of a landlover of this area than a lake-lover. I just love the hills, forests, terrain, mushrooms, everything. My first wife didn’t want to leave Traverse City but once we came here, nothing could’ve made her move again.

Last good movie you saw: The documentary that I helped film here back in 2011, “Undaunted: The Early Life of Josh McDowell.” It was filmed at multiple farms here and I was the animal wrangler/set consultant.

Last good book you read: The one that my wife and I are writing, “Love On the Inside,” about the work I’ve done with inmates over the years. It’s already written in my mind.

If you could trade places with one person for one day, it would be: Gene Autry, “The Singing Cowboy.” Before we had electricity on the farm, we used to listen to him on the radio. He was always encouraging children to do the right thing and I guess I’ve always thought of myself as a cowboy.

Things important to you that you’ve accomplished so far: I’ve done so many things over the years. I think the most significant would be working with inmates. Seeing them transform over time is just so meaningful to me.

What you hope to be doing in 10 years: Still living in Leelanau County and helping inmates.

Things you lose sleep over: I don’t think anything, other than the sore knee that I got from falling on black ice this winter.

If you could change one thing in Leelanau County it would be: I’d bring more high-tech and manufacturing jobs to the area to employ younger people.

Favorite dessert: Pie. I like two kinds: hot and cold.

Are you a coffee drinker? I am not. Nowadays I experiment with different kinds of teas.

Favorite place in Leelanau County: In the woods, making maple syrup.

If you had more time you would: I’d probably volunteer at the Traverse City State Hospital or in historical reenactments.

The words that best describe you are: Multitasking, creative, and adventurous.

Northwestern Michigan College student Kelsey Pease of Suttons Bay provides our “Talk of the County” to readers each week, and welcomes suggestions. She may be reached at kelsey@leelanaunews.com.

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