Tonka mayor earns highest honor from League of MN Cities

By Gabby Landsverk

The C.C. Ludwig award is the highest honor bestowed by the League of Minnesota Cities, recognizing “vision, statesmanship, and an unwavering commitment to the public good.”
According the friends, colleagues and residents, Minnetonka Mayor Terry Schneider embodies all of these qualities. More than a dozen people nominated the mayor for the award, including other Minnetonka City Council members and government officials.

“Mayor Schneider is a treasure to our community and to our State. I looked to him for advice in tough times and always knew that he was there to answer some of the most difficult questions we encountered as elected officials. … He is a kind-hearted and hardworking individual who is held in the highest esteem by anyone who encounters him,” said former State Senator Terri Bonoff, in her nomination.

Schneider has served in city government in Minnetonka, one way or another, since 1977, starting on the park board. He served on the planning commission from 1981 to 1989, and on the city council from 1992 to 2008. He has been mayor since 2009.

“In every way, Mayor Schneider’s service as a council member and mayor of Minnetonka brings to life the attributes and characteristics that the League seeks to honor in bestowing this award … in enhancing his city’s reputation, he has enhanced the reputation of other cities, of local government and of public service,” said Jan Callison, chair of the Hennepin County Board of Commissioners, in her nomination
“[Mayor Schneider] has a way of building partnerships across the region and a commitment to fairness and transparency that allows him to build trust in a sometimes difficult environment,” stated Adam Duininck, Met Council chair, in his nomination.

In spite of the long list of accolades and the praise of his colleagues, Schneider himself is reluctant to spend much time reveling in his accomplishments, given his knack for humility and quiet reflection.
“I’m not a great one for plaques and awards but this really is a special one,” he said.
Schneider was visibly moved by the award, presented June 26 at the Minnetonka City Council meeting, and in an emotional speech credited the development of a strong character through time spent with his grandfather.
“Over the years, people have asked me over and over how I can sit through a very contentious and controversial meeting and keep my cool and keep things civil,” he said. “Part of this is a story about what built my values and beliefs.”

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. (Sun Sailor file photo)

Schneider recalled long hours of fishing with his grandfather and learning the importance of honesty, integrity and careful listening.
“I learned the value of silence,” he said. “You do a lot of your best work just pondering.”
Schneider announced in February that he would not run for re-election in November, retiring from his long career of public service.
“There isn’t a more appropriate send-off than this prestigious honor,” said Councilmember Brad Wiersum. “We are eternally grateful for your dedication service and leadership in the Minnetonka community.”

In other business, the council received a clean audit report from CliftonLarsonAllen LLP, signifying that the city’s finances have been fairly and accurately represented, what Schneider refers to as a “good report card” for the city.
“You can see the revenues and expenditures have been pretty consistent over the years,” said Doug Host, a partner with the firm. “The fund balance has been very stable from year to year.”

Host also commended the city for its sound financial position, which has earned Minnetonka the highest possible bond rating of AAA, which is achieved by 14 of 225 cities statewide, for 25 consecutive years.
Minnetonka has also received awards for excellence in financial reporting from the Government Finance Officers Association for the past 33 consecutive years for its comprehensive annual financial report.
City Manager Geralyn Barone credited city staff, particularly Merrill King, finance director, and Joel Merry, assistant finance director, for their good work in managing and reporting the city finances.