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Assembly encores are not unknown in Sitka. The job is more demanding than people think, though. Thor Christianson says he’s running out of concern for the direction city government is headed.
“While I think I did ;some good on the assembly, there are some things I’d do differently. For lack of a better word, I think there’s a need for institutional memory on the assembly. I had some people calling me asking me to run, and I resisted for a while because I was really hoping that some other folks would step up and nobody did. But I feel it’s needed now. I think that we have been a little bit aggressive as a city lately. We seem to be expanding city services – which is admirable. Everything we’ve talked about are things that a large portion of the population would like. However, at the same time we’ve been making it harder to expand our tax base, making it harder for businesses to do business.”
Christianson was born and raised in Sitka, and attended the University of Minnesota. He spent 17 years working in the fishing industry in various places and jobs, with several years spent as production manager in Pelican. He returned permanently to his home town in 1997.
Christianson has a wife, Jessica, and two young children. He’s the Resources Manager at Southeast Region Emergency Medical Services. He’s an EMT III with the firehall and the medic for Sitka’s dive rescue team.
Asked to illustrate his concerns about the city’s expansion, he doesn’t hesitate.
“The obvious one is the Hames Center. I understand why we do it. I took my daughter up there to swim lessons and it was wonderful. I’ve spent a lot of time up there. But in the last budget we were talking about moving money from roads. And in my mind, if we’re going to raise taxes, there are things we need to do now. We’ve got expansion happening whether we want it or not. According to the federal government there’s not much inflation right now, but I’m seeing some. Things always cost more. With these flat budgets, just holding steady where we’re at is expansion.”
Christianson previously served on the assembly for two full terms beginning in 1998. He ran for a third term in 2004 and lost – the fifth of six candidates.
Christianson told KCAW’s Ed Ronco that he probably pushed too hard to secure a permanent future for Sitka Community Hospital.
“I got tunnel vision. I still feel that we need to protect our hospital and keep it going, but I got caught up in the process a bit. There was probably a bit of hubris there, where I thought that if I took the lead, we could maybe get the hospital funded, and have a steady stream of funding for as long as it was needed. If I left the assembly with the hospital having a steady source of funding, I would have done my job. I – we- probably bit off more than we could chew as an assembly. We went at it a little too aggressively. I think that if we had spent a little more time, and said ‘What if it’s just better off, and not taken care of?’ ED RONCO – What happened? THOR – We talked about raising the property tax to provide funding for the hospital, and like I said I got caught up in the charge to try and fix it. My personality is to say ‘We got a problem, okay, let’s fix it!’ And let’s fix it forever, if we can. Personally, overall that’s a good thing, however sometimes you can charge a little too hard. And I think maybe that’s a little bit what the current assembly is doing too.”
Christianson believes his previous experience on the assembly will be useful, particularly during the budget process. He believes the assembly should do more to prioritize the budget, rather than instructing department heads simply to make across the board cuts. He also wants to designate a “point person” to assist small businesses navigate city hall – like an ombudsman.
Christianson’s father, Warren, was city attorney for many years, and an active figure in the creation of many Sitka institutions, including Raven Radio.
Thor Christianson believes he did some good on the assembly before, and he has made a difference for Sitka. He says “I would very much like my daughter, in thirty or forty years, have people tell her about her father like people tell me about my father.”
KCAW plans to broadcast interviews with all municipal candidates. The municipal election is Tuesday, October 5th.
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