He may only have been the superintendent of Waubun-Ogema-White Earth Schools for a couple of years, but his colleagues in the Minnesota Association of School Administrators (MASA) already think pretty highly of him.
Mitch Anderson was named as Administrator of the Year for District 30 of MASA Region VIII. Besides Waubun, District 30 also includes Ada-Borup, Fosston, Twin Valley, Norman County East & West, Mahnomen, Win-E-Mac and Fertile-Beltrami.
Anderson, a Frazee native, has been with the Waubun district since 2006. He was originally hired as the elementary school principal, and continued in that role for two years until adding the role of superintendent to his resumé.
"I'm currently the pre-kindergarten through fourth grade principal and (K-12) superintendent," Anderson said.
After graduating from Frazee High School in 1993, Anderson went on to attend college at St. Cloud State University, where he played basketball for the Huskies.
After a couple of years at SCSU, he transferred to Concordia College in Moorhead, where he earned his bachelor's degree in education with a minor in coaching.
"I knew I was going to be an educator from an early age," said Anderson.
Both of his parents were teachers in the Frazee school district; his father taught physical education for 20 years (he also coached), and his mom was an English and foreign language (French) teacher for over 20 years as well.
Anderson's sister, Eryn Moser, and her husband Robb are also teachers and coaches in the Perham school district. "Our family get-togethers usually include conversations on education and coaching," he said with a smile.
His wife Heidi is a daycare provider in Detroit Lakes, where they have been residents since 2006. They have three children: Sydney, 6, who is a kindergartner at Rossman Elementary in DL; Quincy, 5, who is attending preschool at Lincoln Education Center; and Miley, 2, who is "still at home with mom."
After graduating from Concordia, Anderson took his first teaching position in the Becker, Minn., school district. He taught grades 3-4 and coached "a variety of sports."
While he was in Becker, Anderson began picking up some administrative duties.
"Our athletic director was looking for some help, so I took on some of his responsibilities," Anderson said. "I worked with the superintendent and principals at the committee level."
That sparked an interest in school administration, and "I decided it was something I was going to pursue."
After eight years in Becker, the Andersons began to miss their northwest Minnesota roots (Heidi is from Ada), and when Mitch's father passed away in 2006, it precipitated the Andersons' move back to the lake country.
"I was finishing up my degree, and had started looking for positions in the area when the opening at Waubun caught his eye.
"We enjoy the lakes," Anderson said. "I do a lot of hunting and fishing. We were spending all of our weekends driving back up here when we were living in Becker."
After his father's death, Anderson wanted to be closer to his mother as well.
Anderson was already acquainted with the Waubun district, having visited there several times during his years as a Hornet athlete, he was "pleasantly surprised" to find that the district had brand-new school buildings, and discovered that it also had a "a great staff that strives hard to do what's right for the kids."
The teachers at Waubun take the time to get to know their students, Anderson added.
"It's about a lot more than just the education piece -- I think they're a real nurturing and caring staff," he said. "I had no ambitions to jump into a superintendent's role so early."
About a year after Anderson started as the new elementary principal, however, then-superintendent Boyd Bradbury left his position to take on a new job at Minnesota State University Moorhead.
As a temporary solution, former Frazee superintendent Joe Merseth was hired to fill the position at Waubun on an interim basis. As it happened, he and Anderson were already acquainted.
"He (Merseth) was superintendent at Frazee when I went to school there," Anderson said.
Working together over the course of the next year, Merseth and Anderson began to have some discussions about him taking over as superintendent.
"I applied for the position, and was hired in January 2008 for the 2008-09 school year," Anderson said. "The board agreed to keep Joe on as a mentor for the first six months."
Though he was only in Waubun one day a week, Merseth "was on call all the time," Anderson said. "It was a good situation for me to have someone with that many years of experience to be a mentor.
Though the learning curve has been a steep one for Anderson, he said, "the second year has been much easier than the first."
But even with a year's experience under his belt, Anderson said, "There's new stuff popping up all the time that they don't really train you for (in school). Situations arise where you're forced to make decisions -- sometimes they go over well with people, and sometimes they don't. That's the nature of the job.
When he discovered he had been named as the Administrator of the Year by his colleagues, Anderson was "a little surprised. It's only my second year (as superintendent."
But he credits MASA with providing him with "a good network" to help him find his footing in his new job.
"They're just a phone call away," he said.