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Normal Names Mike Matejka As 2021's Citizen Of The Year

Matejka 2
Charlie Schlenker
/
WGLT
Normal Mayor Chris Koos, left, announced Tuesday that the 2021 Normal Citizen of the Year is Twin City community stalwart Mike Matejka, center, pictured with his spouse Kari Sandhaas.

Mike Matejka, a former Bloomington City Council member and longtime Twin City community leader, is the 2021 Normal Citizen of the Year.

Normal Mayor Chris Koos made the announcement Tuesday evening at the town's Annual Town Volunteer Appreciation Reception at the Brown Ballroom of Bone Student Center at Illinois State University.

Matejka, who moved to Normal after he concluded nearly two decades on the Bloomington council, was recognized for his contributions to the entire community.

“For 50 years he has served the Town of Normal, City of Bloomington, and central Illinois in his roles as community leader, volunteer, social justice advocate, and recently he has been shown to be an exemplary role model of positive change in civic engagement," said Koos.

"He constantly steps forward to help contribute offer ideas and lead. More importantly, he listens to community needs and raises awareness motivating others to create solutions.”

Koos also cited Matejka’s "vast professional background as a labor journalist, author, historian, and educator," adding, “Few others believe and invest in community as much as Matejka and he has emphatically impacted the quality of life of people in the community.”

In 1995, Matejka founded the Not In Our Town organization in Bloomington-Normal that promotes inclusion and racial justice.

“This work is as important as ever,” said Koos.

Matejka said when he came to ISU in the 1970s, he was influenced by Father Joe Kelly at the Newman Center. He said Kelly’s favorite word was not God, but community.

“How do we build community? How do we build a world where everybody is treated fairly, everybody has opportunity, and everybody is regarded as a full person deserving of recognition? And I took to my heart what Joe taught and it’s been a lifelong journey to do that,” said Matejka.

Matejka retired this year from the Great Plains Labor Council. He edited the Grand Prairie Union News for four decades. He serves on various boards, advisory panels, and committees, including the McLean County Historical Society, the Illinois Labor History Society, the Community Advisory Board for Easter Seals of Central Illinois, the Stevenson Lecture Series committee, and Autism McLean’s autism friendly community initiative.

In 1982, Matejka co-founded the Christmas Party for Unemployed Families that annually serves 600 children.

Matejka also a previous winner of the Grabill-Homan Community Peace Prize that recognizes individual achievements in peacemaking, leadership, community service, and activism.

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