Christianson: Being where decisions are made
WILLMAR -- Ron Christianson said he is seeking re-election to a sixth four-year term from Ward 2 on the Willmar City Council because he retains a passion for wanting to be there where the decisions are made about his neighborhood, his ward and th...
WILLMAR - Ron Christianson said he is seeking re-election to a sixth four-year term from Ward 2 on the Willmar City Council because he retains a passion for wanting to be there where the decisions are made about his neighborhood, his ward and the city.
“That passion still exists because two of my children have decided to live and work in Willmar along with four of my grandchildren. So it’s most important that I see that Willmar can become better tomorrow than what it is today,’’ he said.
A Willmar native, Christianson returned home after military service. Starting from almost nothing, Christianson said he and his brothers built a successful construction business “and have taken pride in building quality homes’’ in the city.
“I am not ashamed to call myself a conservative. I know costs and know the importance of providing value in the homes we build. This is how I look at government services. I am concerned about the elderly living on fixed incomes and those young people just starting their families,’’ he said.
“We need to make sure our city doesn’t spend money to create bigger government for bigger government’s sake, but need to focus on the costs to those who can least afford any increases in government services,’’ he said.
As a design-build contractor, Christianson said he solves problems and looks at issues from a different angle than the average person.
“I can see how something can be. I have a vision how it should be fixed, whatever the issue may be,’’ he said.
Christianson said he brings to the office his work experience, raising a family, and service to the community.
“Those in my ward and those in other wards know I have a passion to listen and address their concerns. Sometimes we’re able to quickly correct their concerns. Some take more time and require a lot of coordination between the council and city staff. My experiences as a builder and as serving on the council for 20 years give me the ability to address our citizens’ concerns. I’m not always successful, but still have the passion to try,’’ Christianson said.
“I possess the expertise and experience needed to recognize the need to balance the forces pushing for increased services and amenities, and their inherent cost vs. realistic and reasonable governmental responsibilities.’’
The Tribune asked what are the top city service priorities. He said planning and affording future budgets are probably the most important.
“How much government can we afford?’’ Christianson asked. “We need to continue to focus on our infrastructure. Police protection, fire department, providing affordable utilities, and maintaining our streets and neighborhoods. Continuing to provide great medical care. And while many other out-state cities struggle to grow, keeping Wilmar growing with employment for those wanting to live in Willmar is another reason.’’
The Tribune asked for Christianson’s solution to catching up on unmet infrastructure needs.
“Sometimes we quickly jump to hire a consultant to tell us what we need to do to fix any real or perceived problem. They bring their own life experiences into their solutions. We had a recent solution where we had a street resurfacing issue brought to the council. Two streets were scheduled to be resurfaced, not because they were in tough condition, but because they weren’t,’’ he said.
“We do need to look at seeing how other cities address their street repairs for surely our policy needs to be amended. We cannot let structures like the City Auditorium deteriorate. The council and appropriate committees need to be made aware of repairs before the roof and walls begin leaking,’’ he said.
“We have many parks in Willmar, more per person than many other cities, including St. Cloud. They need to be maintained. We have funds and we have a very capable city staff. The council members have only the best in mind for Willmar,’’ he said.
When the Tribune asked what is right with Willmar, Christianson said the city has a lot happening and referred to a lengthy list from Planning and Development Director Bruce Peterson of recent business and commercial developments and expansions.
Among the many things that Christianson said past and present City Councils have overseen include the Bethesda Wellness Center, MinnWest Technology Campus and tenant build-outs, West Central Steel expansion, Heritage Bank remodeling, Northern Factory Sales, FedEx expansion, Mills parts expansion, West Central Sanitation expansion, Mills Auto dealership, Torgerson Properties, Rice Hospital renovations and YMCA addition.
“Willmar will continue to grow. Sometimes it’s newsworthy to focus on problems or where we disagree. But our city is doing very well (with) the mixture of being a rail town, a county seat, home to one of the world’s largest turkey producers, and now with the MinnWest Technology Campus creating phenomenal breakthroughs in the agricultural science sector.’’
Christianson said Willmar is a regional education, commerce and health care center and is well-positioned for future growth.
“My job is to pave the way for that growth, improving the quality of life for city residents along the way. Willmar will continue to have good growth,’’ he said. “I don’t know of any outstate city anywhere not connected by an interstate highway to the metro that equals Willmar.’’
Christianson said he does not believe the City Council is dysfunctional, as a consultant said at a 2013 council retreat. Christianson said the consultant took an interesting twist to the definition of that word.
“Our constitution, the Willmar City Charter, mandates that the city and city staff have a certain relationship. In past years, the charter wasn’t followed. But our charter calls for the City Council to direct staff. Staff’s leadership needs to make sure they’re doing all they can to follow the charter,’’ he said.
“The magnified and over-reported examples of disagreement are very minor,’’ he said. “The council members represent not one special interest group, but the people in their wards and the entire city. Staff makes suggestions, and the council either approves or disapproves. Based on our voting records, the opposite has occurred. We’ve voted well over 90 percent of the time to approve.’’
The Tribune asked how council members should balance the advice of city staff vs. being a voice for the citizens.
“We have many very outstanding city employees. We also have outstanding people living in Willmar. Our council takes input from all - or should. To say only city staff should be listened to is not representing the citizens of Willmar,’’ Christianson said. “Some problems have come because too often the council followed the advice of the ‘experts.’ ’’