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20 Under 40: Judge's Note

The 2017 20 Under 40 judges Katie Erickson (from back left to front right), Christa Lawler, Garner Moffat, Princess Kisob, and Brooks Johnson. (Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com)

Earlier this summer, a handful of judges were given some heavy reading — literally. A fat stack of nominations for the News Tribune’s annual 20 Under 40 Awards, which recognize the community's young do-gooders.

For every nominee, someone went to the trouble to collect information, fill out a form, make a case, hit submit. Whittling the picks to 20 is never an easy task. As judges — a group that included News Tribune business reporter Brooks Johnson, 2015 award-winner Katie Erickson, and 2016 award winners Garner Moffat and Princess Kisob — we look for big ideas brought to fruition and people who have traded free time for the greater good.

We also look for anecdotal evidence of awesomeness.

We scribble notes, we throw paper, we make impassioned pleas.

When Moffat explained that Chani Ninneman of Wise Fool Theater provides free copies of books to young theatergoers, we all nodded and added her to the "yes, definitely" pile.

This year's winners include people like Abigail Mlinar, who woke up on a November morning with an idea to start a group to empower women. Boom: Feminist Action Collective was born; Laura Mullen, who is the point-person for the hyper-engaged Bent Paddle Brewing; and Joe Wicklund, on staff at Marshall School and in the field coaching young athletes.

Do this judging job long enough and you start to get tunnel vision: You walk into any room and immediately look for the young person who made the event happen by simply wondering "hey, what if ..."

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