Bob Christians is running against Justin Zenanko and Mark Vanderlinde for a seat on the Minnetrista City Council. Mr. Vanderlinde did not respond to Patch's invitation to participate in this segment.
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Share something most people don’t know about you.
I am a husband, father of two, grandfather of eight. I’m a business owner. I actively sponsor multiple girls’ softball teams. I’m a member of Westonka BNI and Celebrate Greater Mound. I am a 20-plus year tax paying resident of Minnetrista. Born and raised on a farm in northwest Iowa. Moved to the Twin Cities at the age of 18 where I started an entry level job within the sporting goods department at Dayton’s.
Sixteen years later after moving up to a divisional management position I founded Christians Inc. Insurance Restoration, Construction and Cleaning, which today I still manage and is one of the largest insurance restoration businesses in the state of Minnesota.
What sorts of thoughts come to mind when you think of Lake Minnetonka?
After the thought of being fortunate and blessed to have lived on Lake Minnetonka for the past 20 plus years, I feel that Lake Minnetonka is the paradise of Minnesota. This feeling comes from the beautiful scenery, spring, summer, fall and winter to the small hometown atmosphere you feel from the great community we live in.
The Lake Minnetonka area has great schools, friendly and successful businesses, and gives you the feeling of a safe place to live. When I think of Lake Minnetonka I think about what I consider the most important and that is the people within the community who care.
Are invasive species a local, state or federal issue? Or is it a mix? Describe your views.
Invasive species are all three. There are at least 17 invasive species that pose an imminent threat to our lakes. These invasive species aren’t aware of global boundaries much less, federal, state or local boundaries.
Everyone needs to work together to address this complex issue. We also need to figure out how to cost effectively manage the invasive species that are already here today.
What is the most common issue people talk about with you about while campaigning? What do you tell them?
The most common issue people talk to me about is how can we improve the city’s infrastructure, i.e. road maintenance, dust control, clean water, water pressure, safe streets along with cost effective police and fire services without being taxed to death.
My answer is, after living in Minnetrista for 20 plus years I too agree that we should be able to do a better job with our infrastructure. With the amount of tax dollars we pay we should be able to offer better road maintenance, dust control on our gravel roads, improve the water quality and have safe streets with cost effective police and fire services.
However, we inherited a white elephant in the middle of a soybean field that has a cost to our taxpayers of over $400,000 a year in bond payment. We can provide more cost effective services and we need to get a better return on our $400,000 a year bond payment. In doing so we’ll do a better job with our infrastructure.
How do you feel about the current property tax levels? What about school district taxes (understanding the city council has no control over them)?
I know that even though my property value has decreased over 30 percent my property taxes have not. I will look for ways to make the level of services the city provides the same or better while reducing the costs. The city levy is a much smaller portion of the total property tax bill as compared to the school district.
I encourage every citizen to take a closer look at their property tax statement and then decide how they feel about school district taxes.
If the funding were available, what projects- either shovel ready or on the drawing board- would you advocate dedicating it to?
I would improve our municipal water system for our residents. The water in Minnetrista was put together in a haphazard manner and isn’t interconnected. The most serious concern is adequate water availability for fighting fires. But the complaint that I hear about the most concerns the rust colored water coming out of the tap.
Are you satisfied with the public safety services being provided to city residents?
Minnetrista provides excellent public safety services. That has never been the question.
The question is and always has been the cost. The building of the new police facility costs our taxpayers over $400,000 a year in bond payments. That represents over 10 percent of our property tax levy. Police services represent a huge chunk of our city budget even without the bond payments included. We need to either increase the number of communities we serve or partner with another organization to share resources and costs.
How would you encourage the average citizen to become more engaged in local government?
My goal has always been for the city council to listen to the residents of Minnetrista. Citizens can now speak their mind during the city council meetings. Residents can also request a meeting packet be e-mailed to them before meetings.
The more citizens know about what the city council is discussing the more informed and engaged they will be. I want all citizens to feel that they are part of our community and their skills and talents are appreciated. If elected, I will look for even more ways to inform and involve our residents.
Open forum. Why should voters cast their ballot for you this November?
As a 20-plus year taxpayer and resident of the city, plus 40 plus years of business experience as well as my community involvement, such as Celebrate Greater Mound, Westonka BNI and numerous sponsorships of girls softball programs.
I can bring the necessary leadership and common sense to improve the infrastructure of the city, without raising taxes. MY concerns and focus involve improving road maintenance. Clean water, safe streets and cost effective police and fire services.
My plan is to lay the groundwork for property value recovery and help make Minnetrista one of the most desirable communities in the metro area.