‘I’m really proud of our community’: 1st Ward councilor looks forward to continuing to serve

Published 3:47 pm Thursday, June 13, 2024

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Albert Lea’s incumbent 1st Ward city councilor said she looks forward to serving her next term on the council after filing for reelection. 

Rachel Christensen, a 1976 Albert Lea High School graduate, was first elected to the council in 2022 to finish the term of Rich Murray, who ran successfully for mayor. This fall she is unopposed as she seeks her first regular four-year term. 

Christensen, who has an extensive business and banking background, also works with an international therapeutic music training program, teaching music and technique. She has served on numerous boards, including for Jobs Inc., what used to be known as the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation Board and the Albert Lea Planning Commission, among others. 

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She said after her first year and a half on the council, one of the things she has enjoyed most is the learning process in the role. 

“In addition to learning about the functioning as a city councilor and being a part of oversight of city government, (I’ve enjoyed) becoming more involved with organizations, like the Chamber and the Blue Zones committee, finding out more about Senior Resources and all the different groups that are active in making Albert Lea a better place for everyone.”

She said it has been eye-opening for her to see how much more goes on than she was aware of before coming into the position. She encouraged anyone who may have any sort of negativity about the community to get involved in whatever interests them and find out how many others are also working on those same efforts in the community. 

Christensen is excited to be part of the Blue Zones Leadership Team and said she is convinced that one of the best things residents and the community can do is focus on the principles of Blue Zones communities, the most important of which for her revolves around nutrition. 

“I really think our children are being short-changed because we don’t have enough healthy options,” she said. “That’s something we’re continuing to work toward.” 

She would love to see more people get involved in potluck and walking moais — both with people they already know and people they don’t know yet — and to build relationships.

Christensen said she will continue to serve on the city’s budget committee for probably two more years, noting the importance of the committee. 

“Everybody’s aware that with inflation, things are going up … they’re going up for everybody,” she said. 

Councilors aim to be deliberate with how it spends money and to make sure they spend it on the right things for the taxpayer, she said. For example, if a program no longer serves its purpose, it is OK to stop the program and work on something else. 

“I look forward to continuing to learn and hopefully to be able to bring back some insights for the benefit of the people,” she said. 

Overall, she said she has enjoyed working with all of the city staff and other councilors and said it has been a positive experience. In many other communities, there are often different groups fighting against each other. She likes how here people treat each other respectfully when they do disagree. 

Looking back on her time so far in office, she said she has been surprised she hasn’t received more feedback from residents with comments, questions and concerns and stressed how important it is for making decisions. 

In the coming years, she said the biggest local issue facing Ward 1 is the final phase of the Fountain Lake dredging project. She said she is hoping residents will spearhead a public support group for the project. 

“It’s desperately needed,” she said. “It’s a good project, but we do need as a community to support it.”

Other issues important to the city as a whole in the coming years include housing and business recruitment.

She said so often she hears people suggesting different things they think the city government should do in the community. While the city can’t do everything, she would love to see more individuals in the community step up and take action on projects and provide leadership, while the city provides support. 

She is proud of the efforts the city is taking to be more environmentally friendly, including testing out pollinator friendly, low-mow grasses. 

She is also excited now that the city is set up to allow a tiny home development if a developer were to come in and develop a project. 

“I’m really proud of our community,” Christensen said. “I think it’s beautiful. I think we have a lot of wonderful people.” 

She is grateful for those who elected her and said she looks forward to continuing to serve.