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Town of Normal News

Posted on: August 4, 2021

Mike Matejka Named Citizen of Year in Normal

a photo of Mike Matejka

Mayor Chris Koos announced Mike Matejka as the Town of Normal’s 2021 Citizen of the Year during the Town’s Appreciation Reception Tuesday night. 


“Mike has served Normal, Bloomington and Central Illinois for nearly 50 years,” said Koos. “Whether serving as a community leader, volunteer, social justice advocate or, most recently, as a member of the Normal Planning Commission, he is an exemplary role model for positive change and civic engagement. 

“If I had to choose one word to describe Mike Matejka, I would choose the word “community.” Few others believe in and invest in our community as much as Mike,” added Koos. “He consistently steps forward to help, contribute, offer ideas and leadership. More importantly, Mike listens to community needs and then works to raise awareness, motivating others to create solutions.”


Matejka’s background is vast, with experience as a labor journalist, editor, author, historian and educator. 


“His volunteer leadership is as varied as his professional experience. Mike has been a valued, contributing community member from the very start,” said Koos. Notably, Matejka founded the local Not in Our Town initiative in 1995 and currently serves as co-chair. 


“Mike’s efforts resulted in the first national conference with dialogue about human relations,” added Koos. “Thanks to his efforts, Not in Our Town continues to actively promote inclusion and address racial justice issues locally. This work is as important as ever, and or communities have benefitted many times over from his leadership.”


About Matejka

Matejka retired in 2021 from the Great Plains Laborers District Council where he served as Governmental Affairs Director, covering 12,000 union laborers in Central Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota. For more than 40 years he edited the local Grand Prairie Union News.  


In addition to his role with Not in Our Town, Matejka is an active board member of the McLean County Historical Society, the Illinois Labor History Society, and the Community Advisory Board for Easterseals Central Illinois. He also serves on boards for the Stevenson Lecture Committee, Autism McLean’s Autism Friendly Community initiative and other local efforts. An experienced civic leader, Matejka served for nearly two decades on the Bloomington City Council (1989 to 2007). 


One of Matejka’s early accomplishments includes co-founding the Christmas Party for Unemployed Families in 1982. For more than 40 years, this event has served 300-600 children annually in our community, thanks to collaborative efforts from local labor unions, the McLean County Chamber of Commerce and numerous volunteers. 


A native of the St. Louis area, Matejka moved to the Bloomington-Normal area to attend Illinois State University. He graduated in 1974 with a bachelor’s degree in History. He furthered his education, earning a master’s degree in Union Administration from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, in 2000. Matejka is an accomplished author, having written two local labor history-related books and numerous journal, magazine and newspaper articles.


Matejka has been recognized by many other organizations, including:

  • Illinois State University Homan Grabill Peace Award (2017)
  • Illinois State University Burton Mercier Alumni Community Service Award (2013) 
  • McLean County League of Women Voters Citizen of the Year (2012) 
  • Martin Luther King, Jr. Award, Bloomington Human Relations Commission (2009)
  • Robert G. Gibson Award, Illinois AFL-CIO Community Service Award (2008) 
  • Illinois Eye Bank Watson Gailey Award for supporting organ and tissue donation (2007)
  • Illinois Humanities Council Studs Terkel Award (2003) 
  • More than 30 communications awards from the International Labor Communications Association for specific written pieces, photographs and scripts

 Matejka is married to Kari Sandhaas and they have a daughter, Loretta.

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