"Totally surprised," was Bill Mattson's reaction after walking into the History Center at the Nisswa Pioneer Village only to learn he was the 2019 Nisswa Citizen of the Year.
"I thought we were building a flower box at the (Pequot Lakes Baptist) church. She (wife Betty) said, 'No, swing in here.' I was totally surprised," said Mattson, longtime owner of Mattson Lumber, just south of Nisswa on Highway 371, across from Gull Lake's Hole-in-the-Day Bay.
Family, friends and former Nisswa Citizens of the Year greeted Mattson on Friday afternoon, May 3, with flowers, balloons and a certificate. Holly Holm, Nisswa Chamber president, told Mattson the gathering was to honor him as the Citizen of the Year.
"I look at all the old pictures," Mattson said, gesturing around the History Center, "and I know everyone in them."
Mattson's roots run deep in Nisswa. His grandparents, John and Anna Mattson, moved to the area in 1896 from Missouri, settling on Lake Edward Township property just two miles east of Nisswa that is now the Mattson Century Farm. It's where Bill and Betty live today. Bill is the third generation Mattson to live there.
Bill's grandfather helped organize the first school district, helped build the schoolhouse and later was elected to the first school board. His grandmother also served on the school board, and Bill's father later served 16 years on the board as well.
The Mattson family was also influential in the Nisswa Community Church.
Bill attended Nisswa Elementary School and graduated from Brainerd High School. He started working for Standard Lumber Company in Nisswa after graduating from high school, eventually becoming the manager. Then, 33 years ago, he bought an existing lumber company that he turned into Mattson Lumber Co.
Mattson is involved in the Nisswa community, but tends to fly under the radar with his activities. "Unpretentious," is how former Citizen of the Year Cindy Terwilliger described Mattson as he humbly accepted the award May 3.
His community involvement includes: Nisswa Lions Club, past president and Melvin Jones award recipient; Nisswa American Legion member; Lakeshore Conservation Club member and past president; Nisswa Historical Society, past board member; Crow Wing County Historical Society, past board member; Mid-Minnesota Builders Association of Crow Wing, Wadena and lower Cass County, member; Nisswa Chamber, member since 1986; Brainerd Chamber; and Nisswa-stamman volunteer.
Bill and Betty have hosted exchange students from Turkey and Luxembourg through the Nisswa Lions, and have hosted Nisswa-stamman performers from Sweden.
He has been a supporter of Nisswa Park & Recreation, Miss Nisswa Scholarship Pageant, Nisswa Elementary School's Bloom fundraiser, Nisswa City of Lights, Nisswa School Parent Teacher Organization, Boy Scouts, Gull Lake Drifters, Lutheran Church of the Cross youth, Minnesota Adult & Teen Challenge of Brainerd, Brainerd Youth for Christ and Sertoma Sunrise Club.
"I feel rooted here. It's a nice place to live," Mattson said of Nisswa.
John Wallin, the 2018 Nisswa Citizen of the Year, nominated Mattson.
"I have personally known BIll my whole life, and if anyone in the Nisswa area deserves the Nisswa Citizen of the Year award, I highly recommend Bill Mattson to be the recipient of this honor," Wallin wrote in his nomination letter that highlighted Mattson's life and community involvement.
Mattson will be recognized as the 2019 Citizen of the Year at the Nisswa Chamber spring dinner Thursday, May 16, at Cragun's Legacy Pavilion.
Nisswa Citizens of the Year
Past award winners are: John Wallin, 2018; Lynn Fairbanks, 2016-17; Mike Burns, 2015; Ted Dullum, 2014; Debra Cruz, 2013; John and Cindy Terwilliger, 2012; Penny Stumvoll, 2011; Teresa Faust, 2010; Ted Schaefer, 2009; Richard Geike, 2008; Mark Ulm, 2007; Lenny Hodgson, 2006; George Holtan, 2005; Wendell "Del" Draves, 2004; Robert "Bob" Holland, 2003; Dick Carlson, 2002; Ingrid Anderson, 2001; Harold Kraus, 2000; Jerry and Ruth Peltier, 1999; Mark Ronnei, 1998; Bernice Hinkie, 1997; Bob Sheplee, 1996; Terry McGaughey, 1995; Jack Warden, 1994; Marv Koep, 1993; Howard Wallentine, 1992; Bob Hurst, 1991; Dick Cook, 1990; Jim Dullum, 1989; and Scott Mike Thurlow, 1988.