By Kristen Miller
COKATO, MN With 39 years of his life dedicated to serving the people of Cokato, Jim Erickson, Cokato Ambulance Service director and retired volunteer firefighter, was given the 2010 Cokato Chamber of Commerce Outstanding Citizen award during last week’s meeting.
“The ‘Outstanding Citizen award’ has always been given to someone who has helped other Cokato citizens, but Jim has literally been saving lives,” said Dori Kimball, chamber president.
Erickson was nominated for the award by Jarod Sebring, Cokato Chamber treasurer and volunteer firefighter. Erickson was still on the fire department when Sebring started in 2006. Erickson retired January 2010 after 39 years of service on the department.
As the Chamber board was discussing who to nominate for this year’s award, Sebring suggested Erickson.
“What better of a person than someone who has dedicated his life to this community,” Sebring commented.
Erickson is originally from Superior, WI, and came to Cokato in 1960, to work for a TV repair shop after attending Brown Institute in Minneapolis, now known as Brown College.
In 1968, Erickson opened his own shop, Jim’s TV and Stereo, in Cokato. When TV shops started “going by the wayside,” he closed up shop in the mid-’80s.
In 1971, the Cokato Volunteer Fire Department was recruiting new members and Erickson joined the team and stayed on for nearly 40 years. The average is about 20 to 25 years of service, according to Erickson.
“It was a good group of guys to work with,” he said.
He also stayed on for so long because he found the job interesting, with the different types of fires.
“It seemed like a good thing to do to help people out,” Erickson said.
In 1978, Erickson helped charter the Cokato Ambulance Service. Until this time, the Cokato Fire Department would respond and wait for Litchfield’s ambulance service for transports.
The department, along with the city, began looking into the feasibility of starting its own ambulance service.
A town meeting took place and so many citizens showed up in support of the idea that there were people lined up out on the street, Erickson recalled.
Erickson has been director since 1995, and plans to stay on the ambulance service for at least one more year, he said.
Aside from his service in the community, Erickson has been working part time for the Dassel-Cokato School District for the past seven years repairing and installing computers and technology equipment.
In his free time, Erickson has been restoring a 1955 Chevy Belair two-door hard-top.
Erickson was quite surprised to find out he was nominated for this award. “At first I thought ‘why me?’” he said. Erickson was honored to find out he was nominated by Sebring and thanks him for that.
After accepting the award during the Chamber’s holiday dinner Dec. 7, Erickson said, “I guess all that’s now left is Disney World.”