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Woman returns from Mexico just in time to be named the Nisswa Citizen of the Year

Tina Foster "drove like a maniac" to get to the chamber event, thinking her friend would win the honor

Nisswa Citizen of the Year Tina Foster with family.JPG
Nisswa Citizen of the Year Tina Foster, center, is shown with her son-in-law and daughter, Mike and Chloe Newton, left; her daughter, Sophie Foster; and son, Christian Burnett, on Thursday, May 19, 2022, at Cragun's Legacy Courses, where the Nisswa Chamber dinner was held.
Nancy Vogt / Echo Journal
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NISSWA — Admitting she likes adventure, Tina Foster made the long drive home to Nisswa from Mexico just in time to attend the Nisswa Chamber of Commerce annual spring dinner.

That was her goal - to attend the dinner with her family and friends to see her good friend honored as the Nisswa Citizen of the Year.

But that’s not how it played out. Instead, Foster’s eyes got big and her mouth opened wide upon hearing this year’s Citizen of the Year had just returned from Mexico.

I drove like a maniac to get back here because I thought somebody else was going to get this award and I was coming because I wasn’t going to miss it. I didn’t know it was me.
Tina Foster, 2022 Nisswa Citizen of the Year

“I’m overwhelmed and so grateful to be part of this little town. It’s amazing to be part of this community. After you go away for a bit, then you really know,” Foster said after the news that she was the Citizen of the Year began to sink in.

Foster was sure her good friend, Shawn Hansen, would receive the award, and those in the know went along with her thoughts. At the Thursday, May 19, dinner at Cragun’s Legacy Courses, Chamber President Pam Dorion opened the Citizen of the Year program by praising the winner for her leadership.

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“This is their second year being nominated, and it is voted on by past citizens of the year and two (chamber) board members that combed through many, many nominations this year. There’s always one that just rises to the top,” Dorion said.

“The nomination letter said, ‘If you are from Nisswa or you visit here frequently, you have met this person and also they would give you the shirt off their back if they knew that you needed it.’ They have sat or currently sit on many boards,” she said.

“I can’t say any more right now until I announce who it is. Then I would like to say a few words on what I think of this person and how grateful I am that they have returned from Mexico and will be back in Nisswa full time.”

It turns out Hansen had nominated Foster last year and renominated her this year. The two have known each other for 22 years.

“She was actually one of the first people I met when I moved to Nisswa,” Hansen’s letter said.

Addressing those at the chamber dinner, Foster said: "I drove like a maniac to get back here because I thought somebody else was going to get this award and I was coming because I wasn’t going to miss it. I didn’t know it was me. Thank you so much. I don’t know what to say but I love Nisswa. And this was home and I had the luxury of going away for a little while and recognizing how much Nisswa’s home.

“I’m so happy to be here and be amongst my people again. Love you, and thank you, you crazy women, you got me with this.”

Foster’s involvement includes: The Outreach Program at Brainerd Lakes board of directors, Nisswa Lions Club, the former Nisswa Women of Today, Nisswa Winter Jubilee co-chair and former chamber board member.

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Even when she moved to Mexico in November 2020, she frequently traveled back to Nisswa for events, including the Winter Jubilee, Gull Lake Frozen Flop, Fishing to End Hunger and the Nisswa Fall Festival.

“My commitment remained here,” Foster said.

Dorion said to the crowd: “Tina has been amazing at organizing things and helping Nisswa so much that most of you didn’t even know that she had moved.”

If you are from Nisswa or you visit here frequently, you have met this person and also they would give you the shirt off their back if they knew that you needed it.
Shawn Hansen, in her nomination letter

While away, Foster frequently called the chamber, saying she knew who the Citizen of the Year would be and sharing names of those who had to be at the dinner for the announcement.

“I never lied,” Dorion said. “I just didn’t tell the truth.”

The small Mexican town Foster lived in is not unlike Nisswa, and living there was a great experience.

“It was lovely. But I learned this is home,” Foster said, noting she has returned permanently to Nisswa once again, arriving home around 7:30 p.m. the night before the chamber dinner.

She didn’t have a clue she was the Citizen of the Year.

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“I was in shock,” she said. “I looked back at Shawn and thought, ‘This is supposed to be you, not me.’”

Nisswa Citizens of the Year

Past award winners are: Lee Seipp, 2021; no one in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic; Bill Mattson, 2019; 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.

Nancy Vogt, editor, may be reached at 218-855-5877 or nancy.vogt@pineandlakes.com. Follow her on Facebook and on Twitter at www.twitter.com/@PEJ_Nancy.

Nancy Vogt is editor of the Pineandlakes Echo Journal, a weekly newspaper that covers eight communities in the Pequot Lakes-Pine River areas - from Nisswa to Hackensack and Pequot Lakes to Crosslake.

She started as editor of the Lake Country Echo in July 2006, and continued in that role when the Lake Country Echo and the Pine River Journal combined in September 2013 to become the Pineandlakes Echo Journal. She worked for the Brainerd Dispatch from 1992-2006 in various roles.

She covers Nisswa, Pequot Lakes, Lake Shore and Crosslake city councils, as well as writes feature stories, news stories and personal columns (Vogt's Notes). She also takes photos at community events.

Contact her at nancy.vogt@pineandlakes.com or 218-855-5877 with story ideas or questions. Be sure to leave a voicemail message!
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