By Jennifer Von Ohlen
COKATO, MN As each year comes to a close, the Cokato Chamber of Commerce reflects upon the people of its community and selects one individual whose involvement has been especially noteworthy.
This year’s Outstanding Citizen of the Year Award recipient is Mike Ackerman, who actually served as chamber secretary and president at one time.
“The reason that anybody is [selected for this award] is their involvement in the community,” stated Chamber President Paulie Johnson, “and Mike has many, many years of service in the community. Not only as a business owner, but just as a resident.”
Ackerman opened, Mike’s Barbershop after he and his wife, Mary, moved to Cokato in 1971. In later years, it was known as the Cokato Barbershop, and continued to be so following Ackerman’s retirement in 2007.
Shortly after his arrival to Cokato, Ackerman got to know some of the other small business owners in the area, and was really moved by how they showed pride and service for the community, and “just worked so hard to improve the town.”
Ackerman said he was so impressed, he wanted to be like them.
“I felt that it was an obligation, that I was making my living from this city, and [therefore] should volunteer for the community. For the city, for the school. It was something I owed the people that were servicing me and my family, and I wanted to give back a little bit,” he said.
In returning the favor, Ackerman has been a part of several local groups including the Cokato Association of Businessmen and Professionals, the original board of the Cokato Historical Society (which he and Mary continue to be a part of), the Cokato Community Chest (serving many years as president), the Cokato City Council (four years), and the board of directors of Village Ranch Child and Family Services in Cokato.
Ackerman also likes to be involved in the entertainment side of the community, having been acting, directing, and helping out with set building in community theater since 1983. He also volunteered on Dassel-Cokato High School’s football chain crew for 37 consecutive years, plus another four seasons as a substitute.
In addition to his local community, Ackerman’s actions have gone far beyond Cokato’s borders, having served in the Medical Corp of the US Army for three years. He was stationed in Asia for one year.
Presently, Ackerman is using his patriotic fervour for the Cokato American Legion Post 209, where he spent six terms as finance officer and four terms as commander. He is also a 10-year member of the Post Honor Guard, which performs military honors for veteran funerals.
Ackerman’s community involvement was previously recognized in 2014, when he and Mary rode as grand marshals in the Cokato Corn Carnival parade. To date, he has volunteered at the annual carnival for 46 consecutive years nine of which included being carnival chairman.
“Mike, as a person, is so humble, and so caring,” Johnson shared. “He just has a heart for service, and he does really well at it.”
“I just really enjoyed the last 46 years,” Ackerman commented, “and am glad I was able to be of some use in some capacity to help improve the town. It’s been a pleasure.”