Winnebago County Board Chairman Scott Christiansen tells 13 WREX he will not seek re-election for another term as the county's leader, despite active campaigning ahead of the March 15 primary election.
"It's been my pleasure to serve on a county board and as a board chairman for most of the last 30 years. I've built tremendous relationships and I'm certainly grateful to friends and business associates and so many fabulous people that I've dealt with and achieved a lot of things," he said. "We've got a lot of accomplishments for the citizens of Winnebago County. I certainly appreciate all the supporters these years."
In a sit-down interview with 13 News reporter Kelsie Passolt, Christiansen said he's dropping out of the race because he wants to spend more time with his family.
"I've missed too many breakfasts and too many dinners with my family," he said. "And now I have grandchildren, and I don't want to do the same thing there."
He said he and his wife have been considering this move since November, but he ultimately made the decision in the past few days.
"I just didn't have quite the fire that I felt I certainly had in the past."
The county board has been under the recent scrutiny of a federal investigation, specifically concerning its purchasing. Since the investigation began, Christiansen has been called in to question for personally using a county owned infrared sauna at his home.
Christiansen, however, said the investigation was not a factor in his decision to not run again.
"We did what we were supposed to. We handled it quickly, got it to the right authorities and they'll be handling it in accordance with their policies," he said. "But as far as me personally, no that wasn't. The factor was again, was feeling a real sense of family."
Christiansen was born and raised in Winnebago County and continues to live here with his wife, Kathy. He was appointed as county board chairman in 2004, but his work began long before that. He was first elected to the county board in 1984. He spent some time off the board, but returned to be on it through the 1990s.
Christiansen saw the county through the economic downturn starting in 2008, where the area saw one of the highest unemployment rates in the state.
"This has been the worst economic times here since the Great Depression actually, and to be able to get through that and deliver the services and do it well -- I'm really proud of our staff who do a tremendous job."
Christiansen most recently appeared on WREX in January during an in-depth interview on 13 In Focus. During the show, he touted economic development in his tenure, including developments on Baxter Road, the activity along the I-39 corridor, and several other projects like Woodward and AAR that have made the county home.
"The citizens here I've been privileged to serve all these years and rest assured that we're going to stay with the same pace going out here to the end and hopefully people look back and say 'Boy, he left them better than he found it.'"
While looking back at his career, he admits the county's crime levels are still a concern and perhaps even a regret.
"I wish we had a better handle on crime, if there were a regret. I still am very much in favor of more cooperative policing to actually have a greater impact, more visibility on the street, that kind of thing and at least there's discussions going on so that's a good thing," he said. "I guess I'd kind of plea the Frank Sinatra on that one."
Christiansen will serve as the county's board chairman until the end of his term, which ends December 2016.
"I think we see a whole new wave coming and think maybe it's time for new blood — some new vision to come into place," Christiansen said. He continued, "I'm still going to be around to help wherever somebody thinks I need to.
Lastly, he added, "Time goes so fast and I want to take some time now especially, as I indicated, with my grandsons and my wife and daughter. You've got to teach them how to fish. Golf is another one."
In a statement to 13 WREX, his Republican opponent said, "I respect Scott Christiansen's decision and I look forward to shifting from a focus on a March primary to the November general election."
Haney is seeking the leadership role. He previously served as Chairman on the Rock Valley College Board of Trustees until he stepped down from that position in January. He remains on as a board member.