State of the City showcases Minnetonka’s strong history of adaptation, resilience

Mayor announced he will not run for re-election

By Gabby Landsverk, Sun Sailor Newspapers

Minnetonkans braved below-zero temperatures Feb. 8 for the annual State of the City event, gathering for pastries, coffee and conversation at 7:30 am at the Minnetonka Community Center.

Mayor Terry Schneider, a member of the city council since 1992 and mayor since 2009, announced in his opening remarks that he would not run for re-election this fall, making his eighth consecutive State of the City presentation his last city address.

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Minnetonka Mayor Terry Schneider presented his eighth and final State of the City address after announcing he does not intend to run for re-election in the fall. The presentation focused on the city’s ability to overcome past, present and future challenges. (Sun Sailor staff photos by Gabby Landsverk)

Alexa Rundquist, Minnetonka Rotary president, and Deb McMillan, of TwinWest Chamber of Commerce, had brief comments to share early in the presentation.

Then, Schneider took the microphone to dive into a discussion of Minnetonka’s history of overcoming challenges, starting with the last Ice Age.
“It’s true,” Schneider with a smile said as laughter from the crowd subsided. “That unique topography created by glaciers helped shape the foundation of our city 100,000 years ago. It was a little before my time.”

Fast forward to the 1850s, Schneider said, when Minnetonka Mills, and its namesake sawmill, became the center of a thriving business community, the largest in Hennepin County at the time. The sawmill later closed, replaced by a flour mill that kept the area vibrant.
Over time, streetcar systems from Minneapolis connected through to the Glen Lake area, creating the beginnings of that community Minnetonka residents know today.
In the late 19th century, Minnetonka, then a township, began to face competition from nearby Wayzata, St. Louis and Hopkins for annexation of land. Residents then decided to solidify their own identity by making Minnetonka a village in its own right.
“Our whole unique culture evolved around this topography,” Schneider explained, describing how residents wanted to distinguish themselves as a separate community.

In his telling of the birth of the village, there were two opinions battling over the creation of Minnetonka’s destiny: one side wanted it to be named for Charles H. Burwell, whose historic home is still located in the city. Schneider joked that the prevailing side was simply the first to make it to the Hennepin County offices with the correct paperwork. In reality, residents took a vote, and the majority opted for the newly-declared village be known as it is today.
During the 1950s, Schneider continued, post-war families began to move to the suburbs, and the small community began to grow. With more population throughout the metro, however, came more conflicts. The decision to construct Interstate 494 directly through Minnetonka’s natural hills and trees was a contentious one.
“The city adapted — some said the highway would bring benefits of increased commerce and tax base and it did,” Schneider said.

In 1969, Minnetonka had grown large enough to declare itself a charter city.
More regional changes followed. As metro-wide infrastructure changed in the 1970s, the newly-formed Met Council devised a plan for regional sewer systems.
Although Minnetonka residents initially resisted the construction, and accompanying assessments, Schneider said it turned out for the best.
“Lake Minnetonka became much cleaner,” Schneider said.

Despite the turmoil of major changes, the large-scale projects were an integral part of making Minnetonka what it is today, he added.
“A lot of major corporations came to be here because of the unique topography, the access to Minneapolis and those great road systems,” Schneider said.
In the early 2000s leading to today, the city began to face two new challenges: aging infrastructure and an aging population.
The past decade or so has seen the city attempting to welcome older residents, as well as encouraging young families to return to, and stay in, the community.
“People don’t like to move out of Minnetonka … that’s a challenge of diversity and adapting to how people live today,” Schneider said.

The city will face future challenges, as well as new opportunities including the Southwest Light Rail Transit, further infrastructure changes and improvements.
“There’s always going to be changes we can’t control. The question is, how do you adapt to it, turn it into something good with the great staff and engaged citizens we have here,” Schneider said.

He said that, while changes in the culture and ideology of younger generations will prompt difficult decisions going forward, change will also provide great opportunities.
Schneider ended on a high note, and a call to action for residents.
“Be sure that you’re involved and engaged,” he said. “Because of the long history developing a culture of communication and informed thinking, we’re going to end up with deliberate, thoughtful responses to the challenges we’re facing today.

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Contact Gabby Landsverk at [email protected]