Christopherson ready to tackle issues on City Council

Published 12:00 am Monday, January 8, 2001

On Jan.

Monday, January 08, 2001

On Jan. 2, Pete Christopherson, surmounting physical obstacles to make his voice on the issues heard, took the oath of office as city councilman for the Austin.

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He said that he somehow "got through" his campaign in August, going door-to-door to get the word out about his candidacy. Regarding the night of the election, he said that he learned that in politics you must have patience.

His campaign platform involved three areas: flooding, the Austin Fire Department and all areas of public safety.

After laughing, he said that he can’t imagine how George W. Bush and Al Gore spent over 30 days waiting, because the hours he waited seemed like an eternity. On the night of the election returns, his family was watching local TV coverage and missed the announcement of his win on the radio.

"None of us thought to turn the radio on," he said. When a friend called to congratulate him, he learned that he would be the new Second Ward city councilman.

Of his first day sitting as a councilman in the chambers, he said that he was nervous.

"It’s different from up there. There is a TV up where I sit."

He will sit on the following committees for the year 2001: ordinance, park and recreation and public works. His goals for the session are ambitious.

"I want to make sure that we get public safety up to snuff. That’s very important. It’s why we pay our taxes."

Of the flooding problems that seem to be on the minds of many Austin residents, Christopherson said, "We need to keep on top of that. I don’t think that buying houses is the answer. We need to fix the problem."

He said that so far he has had some wonderful conversations with other Austin residents about what they expect of his city council term. Senior residents, he said, are great to talk to, because they have "been around the block."

Christopherson himself was born in 1969 and raised in Austin, to William and Mary Christopherson. He graduated from Austin High School, took carpentry classes at the local vo-tech and played for the football team.

For two and a half years he attended St. John’s University and worked construction during his summers off. He got a job in Mankato and took courses in construction management.

He currently works in Rochester for Alvin E. Benike, general contractor, as a carpenter. Though he has worked for them since last October, he has belonged to their union for two years.

Prior to working at Alvin E. Benike, he worked locally for The Joseph Company Inc. and J.D. Driver. His hobbies include umpiring for the Minnesota State High School League and refereeing high school football games. He also likes to watch movies, such as "Braveheart," "Gladiator" and "Saving Private Ryan."

The affection he feels for the movie "Saving Private Ryan" stems from his fascination with World War II and his admiration for the men who fought for our freedom.

"If it weren’t for those guys, I wouldn’t have been able to run for office," he said.

Christopherson has surmounted his own life obstacles. When he was 12, he was diagnosed with Osteogenic Sacrcoma, a form of cancer which invaded the bones of his face.

After hearing a dental hygienist speak in his elementary school class about ectopic teeth or ingrown teeth, Christopherson noticed a bump on his upper jaw and his mother, a nurse at the time, took him to an oral surgeon. Though an ingrown tooth was found, cancer was found behind as well, leading to the sarcoma diagnosis.

Without the surgery, his chances of surviving were very slim. He was lucky, since this type of cancer is rarely diagnosed early.

As a result of the diagnosis, he had surgery to remove facial bones on the left side of his face. He now wears a removable plastic structure to replace the bones which were removed. The surgery removed all of the cancer and no chemotherapy or radiation was required.

Earlier in his life, in kindergarten to be exact, Christopherson was diagnosed with leg perthes, a degenerative condition of his hip. He had surgery to correct the condition and wore braces when he was young. He said that sometimes his hip clicks, but that is the only reminder of that physical battle.

"When I was diagnosed with leg perthes, there were times when I wanted to go out and do something and I couldn’t. It was hard at times."

He married Diane Drew in June, 2000. Though Diane is from Waukon, Iowa, she works at the Austin Medical Center as a nuclear medicine technician and was back when they met in 1997. They met at the Silver Bullet through a mutual friend on Christopherson’s birthday. He and Diane are expecting their first child in March.

So, as one year of council business ends, Christopherson helps to usher in another. The next year promises a new addition to the Christopherson family. And if Pete Christopherson has anything to say about it, it will be a year of progress in the areas which were the basis for his platform and the success of his election: the Austin Fire Department, flooding and public safety.

"We need to decide how aggressive we want to be, and whether we want to be proactive or reactive," he said. "Being proactive saves in the long run."