This year’s Lumberman of the Year is not a guy you’d describe as having sawdust in his veins… and he doesn’t come from a long line of loggers or sawyers, in fact he wasn’t even born in the United States and growing up he had no idea he would end in working in the lumber industry.
But somewhere along the way he learned that he was given a gift not to be wasted… the gift of life, to live life to the fullest, to enjoy and share with all he encountered along the way…and eventually he found his way into the lumber industry; a better place because he did.
Born on a US Military base in Germany, his father was an Airforce Pilot, so as a young boy he moved around the world, an Airforce brat and the baby of the family… he was a slow talker as a child, maybe because of all the different languages he was exposed to, but eventually he made up for lost time, and discovered his gift of gab.
He found his way to the Pacific Northwest when his father retired from the Air Force and settled in Tacoma, where he attended High School. He was finally in one place long enough to have the opportunity to enjoy sports, and even though he was a late bloomer, he came to realize he was a natural athlete and enjoyed all sports, as well as the camaraderie that went with it …skiing, tennis, basketball… and eventually golf.
After high school our Lumberman of the Year still had no interest in lumber, and working in the lumber industry was the furthest thing from his mind, so he headed off to Willamette University to study art. After a semester he looked around at the artwork of those around him and realized, if he was going to make a living, he would have to find another major. He found that he also enjoyed economics and was good at it, so he went on to graduate with a business and economics degree.
After graduation the job applications went out and included one to Weyerhaeuser, a name he recognized from driving past their Headquarters in Federal Way…in 1979 he accepted a job with Weyerhaeuser in Beaverton, where his career in the lumber industry began. It’s also where he started to build relationships, the beginning of a network of relationships that would ensure success throughout his career; the kind of relationships that are the foundation of our industry.
His most important relationship also began while he was at Weyerhaeuser. He met his future wife through a mutual friend, and while his wife will tell you, it was NOT love at first sight… He was apparently a bit of a bad boy at that time, but he was also a natural salesman, and used all his charisma and charm to convince her he really was a gentleman… eventually won her over and is still happily married today, proud of their two children and grand baby.
He continued his distinguished career when he went from Weyerhaeuser to Cavenham Forest products in Warrenton, Oregon where he sold lumber and continued to build a loyal following of customers who inevitably became friends.
In 1993 he started at Stimson as Lumber Sales Manager, right after Stimson bought four new mills from Champion in Montana, and over the last 23 years was directly responsible for sales of a wide range of innovative products from Stimson mills all across the Northwest. His extensive knowledge, experience and leadership have contributed to the company’s continued success.
His commitment and loyalty to the wholesaler, has in turn, been rewarded by the loyalty and trust of the wholesalers who are his customers, because he treats them as his friends and his partners in business who share their success. People want to do business with him, and describe him as a role model for what sawmill sales should be.
His charismatic personality, infectious laugh, and zest for life make it easy to be around him. He is the spice of life…always ready to have a beer, play a prank, share a laugh, an out-going guy who is the life of the party. He never has a bad day, because he is, as his wife describes him, “Eternally optimistic”… he attracts good people and brings out the best in them.
At the same time, he has been described as a mentor and teacher, who has taken so many young wholesalers on as customers, taught them the ropes, and helped them succeed. Thoughtful and patient, but not afraid to jab and prod and teach them with wit and sarcasm…our Lumberman of the Year has been successful, because he has helped others succeed.
And he makes it look easy…sometimes maybe too easy, having too much fun doing what he calls “working”. He gets accused of having an unknown number of vacation days, and he didn’t get the nickname Dr. Longball sitting behind his desk. He will also be the first lumberman of the year to have rolled a golf cart. You might not like his taste in clothes, like his trademark seersucker shorts, or understand his sock fetish. And it might bother you that he looks too young for his age or has too much hair…
…this year’s Lumberman of the Year has worked in the forest products industry for 37 years. He’s been building relationships that are the foundation of our industry and make it unique and rewarding, and why we are proud to be a part of it. He’s as good at building relationships and turning them into friendships as anyone, it comes naturally to him. He embodies so much of what is good about our industry, and has made his piece of it a better place for all…eternally optimistic and living life to the fullest, he is the kind of man we are proud to call this year’s Lumberman of the Year!
Congratulations Mr. Mark Mitchell!