Matt Dubnik’s commitment to his community was instilled in him by his grandfather-in-law, James Mathis Sr., a longtime Gainesville banker and philanthropist.
“(Mathis Sr.) believed that you have to pay a little rent to your community,” Dubnik said. “And from the time I met him till the day he died, that was a statement that he said over and over. That changed the direction of my life.”
Dubnik was honored March 10 as the Gainesville Jaycees’ Young Man of the Year, 64 years after Mathis received the same award given to those 40 and younger for philanthropic efforts in their own community. Dubnik shared the spotlight with Joy Griffin, the organization’s Young Woman of the Year for 2021.
Dubnik’s wife, Katie Mathis, was named Young Woman of the Year in 2019. Her sister, Kelly Lee, was recognized in 2011, and their father, Jim Mathis Jr., won in 1981.
“Katie and I met when I was 18, and (James Mathis Sr.) died when I was 28, and in the 10 years that I knew him, I was mesmerized by him,” Dubnik said. “He was a big personality in the community. A lot of people said he was like P.T. Barnum.”
Dubnik has represented Gainesville in the State House since 2017, and is seeking re-election this fall. He will enter the May 24 primary election as the sole Republican candidate, and is set to compete against Devin Pandy, the only Democratic candidate, in the November general election.
Dubnik works as the chief engagement officer for Forum Communications in Gainesville, and he is involved in several community organizations including the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce, Ducks Unlimited, Junior Achievement, Georgia Mountain Food Bank and First Baptist Church of Gainesville.
At church, Dubnik shared a pew with four generations of the Mathis family before his wife’s grandparents passed away. Dubnik and his wife have become more involved in the church since joining in 2005.
“Just seeing that history of an organization in this community that’s not only working on the spiritual health of people but having a family life center, helping people with physical health, having counseling services that work on that emotional health,” he said. “That place has had a huge impact on my life. And Katie and I, we’ve become increasingly involved and engaged with that church and that place and that community.”
Winners of the Young Man of the Year award are typically roasted by past nominees and friends at the Jaycees’ banquet announcing the award, and Dubnik said he got guff for some of his obsessive habits. Whenever he eats at a friend’s house for dinner, he insists on cleaning their dishes for them.
“I just feel like if you invite me over for dinner, I’ve got to do my part,” Dubnik said. “I think the line was that I’ve been known to sneak off on a regular basis during dinner to make sure that somebody’s kitchen is clean.”
He appreciated the ceremony, surrounded by past winners and friends.
“Those are my friends, those are my clients, those are people that I look up to, a lot (of) whom have been mentors to me,” he said. “You have people who pour into you and help you grow. It’s just always nice to have friends who care about the community the way I do.”