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Steiner: 'Ready to become a citizen again'

Tony Steiner, City Planner, is set to retire at the end of the month, after almost 28 years of service to the City of River Falls. Photo courtesy of the City of River Falls.

After about 36 years of working, Tony Steiner said he's ready to relax.

Steiner, the River Falls City Planner, has worked for the city for close to 28 years.

When he started with River Falls in 1990, he found the job via an advertisement in "the Planner's Job Mart," Steiner said.

"They were looking for a landscape architect with a planner's background," he said. "I'm both, I liked the area, it sounded like a potential fit so I applied and here we are."

Assistant City Administrator Julie Bergstrom said she started working for the city at about the same time Steiner did.

"He has been a great resource for me and other coworkers for processes such as annexations, zoning questions and the history of various projects," Bergstrom said. "Tony has also been a very successful grant writer for the City, with many improvements in the City due to his efforts."

Bergstrom said Steiner will be missed.

"Tony has been great to work with," she said. "His long tenure with the City has been beneficial to all his coworkers."

Steiner said he doesn't have one favorite memory of his time with the city.

"I enjoyed meeting people in the community, even if sometimes they didn't enjoy meeting me," he said. "It's satisfying to see how the City has grown and matured in the last 30 years and see things I know I had a part in happening."

Some projects Steiner has had a hand in include the development of DeSanctis Park.

"We started out with just a field, and look how far it's come," he said. "It's been very slow but steady progress on it."

Another project that stands out to Steiner has been the work on the Kinni Trail System.

"What we've done over the years, grants that we've gotten to help develop that stands out," he said.

He's also had a hand in working on several different neighborhood parks. One that comes to mind is Larsen Park, Steiner said, partially because he lives nearby.

"I appreciate the fact that I have had the opportunity to work on projects that have tangible results," Steiner said. "I have enjoyed working with the parks and trails and helping to get them developed, the forestry program and the commitment the City has had to keep our streets and parks forested and working with the HPC we have done a few good projects."

The City itself has also changed a lot since he came to River Falls, Steiner said.

The Highway 35/65 bypass went in in the early 90s. Before that, he said, North Main Street looked "totally different."

For example, there was a farm implement dealership on the north end of town.

"As you came into town, you saw all these farm machinery laying around out in the field and so the entrance to the downtown has improved vastly," Steiner said.

The Division Street bridge also didn't exist when he first came to town. Instead, Jerry's Towing was located in that area.

Downtown has changed a lot in many ways, Steiner said.

"I think the attitude that the city has had towards change, with the river, what you're seeing with the Kinni Corridor Plan, that just didn't happen overnight," he said. "Those types of things had to develop and mature, and we've got to that point. I think we're going to be doing great things along the river and I think that's a very positive thing that's happening."

Steiner's last day is Dec. 29. He said though he doesn't need to work an 8-5 job anymore, he's going to look for opportunities to volunteer.

"I would like to help make a positive difference in whatever small way I can," he said.

Steiner also has plans for his free time.

"There are a lot of things to do, travel, I've been all over this country and Canada when I was younger, so there are many places in the world yet to see," he said. "I believe one of the reasons we're here is to learn. I may go back to school for enjoyment. I don't need or want another degree. Pick up my guitar(s) again, shoot trap, ride my bike, hunting for antiques and so forth."

Steiner said it will be different to "become a citizen again" after working for the City for so long.

"It seems like it's gone very fast," he said. "I can remember the first day I came here just to look over the community, and now it's a blink of the eye and here it is."

Steiner said he's glad he decided to come to River Falls in 1990. He's lived in many communities over the years, of many different sizes including Madison, Milwaukee, Eau Claire, Lacrosse, Janesville, and smaller towns, too.

"I've come to see River Falls as my home," Steiner said. "I have lived here longer than any other place in my entire life. So while I'm not a true native, I do feel I am a citizen of this city. And River Falls is a very nice place."

Gretta Stark

Gretta Stark has been a reporter for the River Falls Journal since July of 2013. She previously worked as a reporter for the New Richmond News from June 2012 to July 2013. She holds a BA in Print and Electronic Media from Wartburg College.

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