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Editorial: It’s time this city leader do reflecting

Sometimes you can lead a mule to water, but you cannot make him drink from the fountain of leadership. That appears to be a maxim describing Willmar City Councilman Ron Christianson.

He just doesn’t accept opinions of others when they contradict his own. He maintains an emperor's view as a male sovereign within this city. In his view, there are simply two ways to do things in Willmar: his way and the wrong way.

At a recent committee meeting, Christianson went so far as suggesting a goal of City Administrator Charlene Stevens be to encourage the Moving Willmar Forward group and the West Central Tribune “to quit attacking city council members, who are your boss.”

Calling on a city administrator to ask business leaders and the media in this community to cease criticism is unprofessional and inappropriate. Criticism of city officials is protected speech under the First Amendment, whether Christianson agrees with the amendment or not.

Just how paranoid has this city council member become?

His leadership style certainly is not an enlightened one, but one with bullying tendancies. His leadership style is to strive to browbeat city staff, community leaders, business leaders and/or the press into doing as he says and to not criticize his or City Council actions.

Here are some examples from the past two years of Christianson’s contempt for new ideas and his resistance to change.

  • While he dislikes criticism of himself, he himself is often prone to criticize and/or ridicule fellow council members, city staff, business leaders, community members or the media.
  • He allegedly called a Willmar business leader “evil” during a personal conversation with a third party.
  • He often speaks of “not trusting” city staff, community leaders or those individuals who disagree with him.
  • He voted against tax abatement for proposed redevelopment of the historic Lakeland Hotel building in downtown. Christianson’s comment was “doing nothing is not going to do any harm.”
  • He resisted adopting appropriate rules of order for the City Council.
  • He described community business people, including the Moving Willmar Forward group, as “outside forces” in this city.
  • He criticized business leaders and citizens for bringing concerns to the City Council.
  • He has voted to do nothing in regard to a city reorganization study, claiming the city has worked since he joined the council in 1994 and that he saw no need for change.
  • He told Council Woman Audrey Nelsen during a meeting that with only eight months on the council … “how did (she) know what works” or doesn’t work.
  • He continually brings up items under “new business” without going through the City Council’s committee structure. Then he criticizes citizens who do not follow the committee process.
  • He has made retaliatory moves against organizations, businesses and/or individuals, who previously criticized him or the City Council.

This is not the type of enlightened leadership that the city of Willmar needs. It is not the type of leadership a regional center deserves. It is not the type of leadership that builds respect for Willmar leadership across west central Minnesota or within the rest of the state.

If council member Christianson wants to stop the criticism of him and the City Council, he should look in the mirror and reflect upon the actions of himself and his “do nothing” faction.

He should strive to become more professional and open-minded in order to engage all within our fine community. He should be civil with all constituents and avoid being condescending during discussions.

Finally, Christianson should remember that he represents all the citizens of his ward and the city of Willmar, not just those who share his own political beliefs.