When Jim Dullum called Martin’s Sport Shop in Nisswa on Monday, Aug. 26, he was told to go to Adirondack Coffee for a Nisswa Citizen of the Year meeting. Unable to attend, he called the store’s owner — his daughter, Deb Cruz — and told her to vote for anyone she wanted.
That’s when a crying and laughing Cruz told her dad that the voting was done, and she was the 2013 Nisswa Citizen of the Year, marking the first time a second family member has won the honor. Dullum was the city’s second Citizen of the Year, in 1989.
An unsuspecting Cruz thought she was meeting Shawn Hansen, Nisswa Chamber of Commerce executive director, at Adirondack for a City of Lights meeting Monday morning. Instead — in the midst of tourists and area residents having coffee — she found herself receiving flowers and hugs from past Citizens of the Year Cindy and John Terwilliger and Teresa Faust, along with several Nisswa Chamber board members.
A nomination letter read: “Chairperson for Nisswa City of Lights event, the largest, most popular event in Nisswa. Deb has taken this on for several years and has done a wonderful job. Even when she was running her business and taking classes for her accounting degree, she still led this event.
“She has worked in all aspects of the event — holding planning committee meetings, putting up lights, arranging to bring in extra trees last year for the tree-decorating competition, donating cocoa for the Polar Express event, etc.”
That letter also noted Cruz has been generous in donations to various fundraisers, including the Nisswa Women’s Club silent auction to raise money for local scholarships.
Cruz also frequently donates coffee and pastries to various events, including last weekend’s Camp Lincoln and Camp Lake Hubert alumni run to raise money for kids who otherwise couldn’t attend camp.
“What an honor, given what some of the other people have done,” Cruz said of the award. “I feel my part is so small.
“But what a beautiful community to grow up in and to raise my kids,” she said. “Any part I can do, I’m happy to do it.”
Cruz said she fell in love with the City of Lights event in November 2007, when the fireworks started and big snowflakes started falling. She became involved in the event in 2008 and then became co-chair.
Cruz had lived in Seattle, Wash., for 19 years before returning to Nisswa with her family — husband, Bill; daughter, Marina; and son, Dario.
“One of the biggest joys being back here is being able to be around them and see them every day,” Cruz said of her parents, Jim and Shirley Dullum.