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Brainerd Citizen of the Year is named

Tuesday's Brainerd City Council meeting featured an unexpected announcement. Nancy Cross, Brainerd Community Action executive director, informed the council Mayor James Wallin would be named 2015 Brainerd Citizen of the Year. Wallin, who recently...

Nancy Cross, Brainerd Community Action executive director, announces the 2015 Brainerd Citizen of the Year to the Brainerd City Council Tuesday night. (Brainerd Dispatch/Spenser Bickett)
Nancy Cross, Brainerd Community Action executive director, announces the 2015 Brainerd Citizen of the Year to the Brainerd City Council Tuesday night. (Brainerd Dispatch/Spenser Bickett)

Tuesday's Brainerd City Council meeting featured an unexpected announcement.

Nancy Cross, Brainerd Community Action executive director, informed the council Mayor James Wallin would be named 2015 Brainerd Citizen of the Year.

Wallin, who recently underwent back surgery, has missed a majority of city council meetings since June as he has been home recovering. He was absent from Tuesday's meeting, but as Cross said, "I know he's at home watching."

Volunteers are able to provide a human touch a government program, no matter its good intentions or design, is unable to deliver, Cross said.

Cross has lived in a wide variety of communities, varying from Chicago to Lincoln, Neb., to Brainerd, she said. But she hasn't "lived in a community as giving as the Brainerd lakes area."

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Wallin serves as a prime example of that giving spirit, Cross said, and it starts with his leadership. He has "given countless hours to the community" with his "wisdom and soft-spoken guidance," she said.

In preparation for her announcement, Cross said she looked up the definition of Wallin's name to see what traits are attributed to it. She read some of those traits, which describe someone who "never gives up, works hard, has a large ego, but is not easily pushed over."

"You can't have a better friend, but don't get on his bad side," Cross said. "He's silent, but wise."

After announcing Wallin would receive the honor, the council and others present applauded the decision.

Wallin was first elected to the city council in 1977 and has held the position of mayor since winning election in 1998.

Wallin has also been airport city liaison for 20 years and chaired both city council committees.

In the community, he was in the National Guard for 35 years and has been a member of the American Legion for 40 years, a lifetime member of veteran organization The Forty and Eight, as well as AMVETS.

Last year's election win marked the final time Wallin said he will run for mayor. Wallin and his wife Minna have four children, 12 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.

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SPENSER BICKETT may be reached at 218-855-5859 or spenser.bickett@brainerddispatch.com . Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/spenserbickett .

James Wallin
James Wallin

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