Van Nutt brings quirkiness and success to Middleton Chamber
Anyone who meets Van Nutt, executive director of the Middleton Chamber of Commerce, likely comes away with two impressions. First, he’s a funny guy. Second, he’s committed to Middleton’s success.
Many may not know, however, that before landing at the chamber, he held a variety of different jobs, from collections agent to insurance salesman to ski shop manager. Nutt says he was good at convincing people to pay their delinquent MasterCard and Visa bills, but when he was promoted to direct car loan collections, he became a repo man.
“That was not fun,” Nutt admits. “Normally, someone had a run of bad luck, and there you are, taking their transportation away from them. We pulled pins out of cars, towed them. I always felt like hell, but it was part of the deal, and part of learning that the world isn’t this perfect place.”
“If there was a dream, it would be for more developable lands for residential, which is tight.” — Van Nutt
He also learned that some people have no intention of working within the rules, while others try desperately to do so and fail. “It was a great lesson in how humanity works.”
Nutt grew up in Sioux City, Iowa, the second of four children born to a stay-at-home mom and cattle-buyer father. As a youngster, he was fascinated with people and even considered psychiatry as a future endeavor.
“I was raised to be a helper and problem-solver,” he said.
He had a paper route for the Sioux City Journal, where he got his first taste of business, collecting money from customers door to door, paying for the papers, arranging transportation, and on rare occasions finding a sub. Lesson learned? Discipline, he said.
He earned a business degree from Augustana College in South Dakota. During his senior year, while working on a school project in Hawaii, he received word that his father had committed suicide.
It rocked his world. “You’re riding high, and then suddenly your mentor’s gone,” Nutt said. “I was a mess for a while.”
It shaped the rest of his life. “I wouldn’t be here today if that had not happened,” he says. Whereas once he was a “wallflower,” he has learned to express himself. “You realize everyone has the same insecurities about opening up, being the village idiot, and you allow others to do that, too.
“I have a 12-year-old inside my head,” he laughs. “Really.”
Nutt, 55, has served as the Middleton Chamber’s executive director for 12 years, and his enthusiasm is not lost on the 700 or so members who attend the meetings and help promote the organization. He looks forward to adding more programming, small-group activities, and relationship-building in 2015. “Our mantra has been ‘we’d rather be good than big,’” he notes.
And he feels fortunate to represent Middleton, which he says has a government that’s willing to listen and get things done, a respected and sought-after school district, a quaint downtown with popular local establishments, and regional and national businesses close to the Beltline.
“If there was a dream, it would be for more developable lands for residential, which is tight.” The city, he said, is working on adding a residential component to Greenway Station.
So is Middleton a perfect community? Nutt laughs at the question. “Perfection is fleeting.”
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