The new year begins with the absence of a familiar face at Glenwood City Hall.
Allan Christiansen, a staple on the Glenwood City Council for more than two decades, has stepped down from his seat.
“I’ve done it for 24 years and it’s just time for new people to come in with new ideas and take over.,” Christiansen said. “We’ve got a lot going for us here in Glenwood. Some of it’s because of the council, but a lot of it is because of a lot of hard work from people in the community.”
Christiansen, a native of Arthur, Iowa, has watched the Glenwood community evolve during his tenure on the council. While many of the retail stores that lined Town Square in the late 1980s have closed their doors, the community has also endured a period of unprecedented residential growth in the mid and late 1990s. Christiansen credits the city’s progressive Tax Increment Financing (TIF) policies, spearheaded by the late Gene Schatz, a former Glenwood mayor.
“A lot of the credit goes to our TIF program,” Christiansen said. “Gene Schatz was the one who brought that back to us from a meeting. The way we implemented it and the way it works here has been copied all over the state and in other states. I’m proud of the fact that the way we’ve done it is working.
“The success of it is making the developer responsible for the payments. That way they’re very much interested in getting the project completed and on the tax rolls. If they don’t, they have to pay for it out of their pocket. A lot of cities do not do it that way – the city assumes the financial responsibility so there’s no incentive for developers to complete or really work to make a project go.”
In addition to the housing growth, Christiansen views the Town Square renovation project at the turn of the century and the construction of the Mills County YMCA as two of the city’s most significant accomplishments during his time in office.
“There’s been a lot of small things, but those are the two big accomplishments that come to mind,” he said.
Financially, Christ-iansen said the city has managed to keep its money matters in order despite some tough economic times. He praised the work of former city administrator and financial manager Mary Smith.
Christiansen does have a regret or two as a councilman, including the city’s decision to decline a swimming pool donation from the owner of The Playhouse, an adult entertainment venue in northern Mills County.
“It’s a legitimate business,” Christiansen said. “It was a matter of a church trying to exert political influence and that shouldn’t been allowed. I’ve come to appreciate more and more, the separation of church and state.”
Christiansen has served with six Glenwood mayors during his time on the council – Gene Schatz, Lyle Mayberry, Clare Bangs, Greg Schultz, Dyle Downing, and Kim Clark – but has never had the desire to seek the post himself.
“I thought about it, but never pursued it,” Chrisitansen said. “The mayor doesn’t vote, so basically the mayor doesn’t have any power under our system. I’ve always felt that I could have more impact on the city council.”
Despite his departure from the city council, Christiansen said he’ll continue to do carpentry work on a regular basis. He also plans to spend more time in his garden and traveling with his wife, Cathy, to visit children and grandchildren spread out in Texas, California and Minnesota.