He loved music and taught history and political science for more than 30 years, but Peter Meintsma will best be remembered in Crystal as the city’s longest serving mayor, a man who brought a civil tone to civic discourse.
Meintsma, 88, died Nov. 4 of complications of Parkinson’s disease. He lived in Wayzata at the time, but had called Crystal home for 59 years. Meintsma was mayor of the northwestern suburb twice: first from 1974 to 1984 and then from 1992 to 2004.
In his last year as mayor, Meintsma received the Minnesota League of Cities’ C.C. Ludwig Award, the group’s highest honor for elected city officials.
“He really believed in civil discourse and rational discussion, and thought people can agree or disagree, but still protect each other’s rights to share their opinions,” said Ann Norris, Crystal’s city manager since 2000. She was Crystal’s community development director when Meintsma encouraged her to shoot for the city manager’s post.
Meintsma was born on his family’s farm in Maple Lake, Minn., and graduated from Buffalo High School at age 16. He graduated with a music degree from Bob Jones University in South Carolina. Meintsma’s specialty was singing, and he was a longtime member of church choirs.
He was drafted into the U.S. Army after college and ended up in Washington, D.C., working for the army’s Counter Intelligence Corps. In D.C., he met the love of his life, Sonny, who worked at the CIA as a key puncher, entering secret data into computers. They married and returned to Minnesota, where Peter got a master’s degree in history and political science from the University of Minnesota.
Meintsma started college-level teaching in the late 1950s. By 1966, he’d landed at Anoka-Ramsey Community College in Coon Rapids, where he would teach until 2000.
Meintsma was born into a very conservative family, said his son, Kevin Meintsma. But a “gradual accumulation of events and circumstances changed his worldview.”
Before becoming Crystal’s mayor, Meintsma unsuccessfully ran twice for the state Legislature under the DFL banner. Still, “his approach to politics was ‘doing well by the community;’ ” it was not partisan,” Kevin Meintsma said. John Moravec, a Crystal City Council member from 1984 to 1994, called Meintsma a “pragmatic progressive.”
During Meintsma’s mayoral terms, redevelopment in the aging suburb was often a big issue. “He and the City Council were gung-ho about redevelopment,” Norris said. Commercial projects on Bass Lake Road and West Broadway came to fruition under Meintsma’s terms, as did the transformation of Mielke (athletic) Field into a retail hub, including a large Cub Foods store.
Meintsma was the driving force behind the Hennepin County Recycling Group, a pioneering curbside recycling program in Crystal, New Hope and Brooklyn Center. In 1984, Meintsma was appointed as chairman of the Metropolitan Waste Control Commission by then-Gov. Rudy Perpich. He served in that position until 1988.
Meintsma is survived by Sonny, his wife of 60 years; son Kevin; three grandchildren, and a sister, Marge Hoffman. He was preceded in death by son Kurt and two brothers. Services have been held.