By Megan Washausen
Webster University will continue to have a voice on the Old Orchard Special Business District Advisory Commission in Webster Groves. Greg Gunderson, vice president and chief financial officer at Webster, will serve on the commission. The Webster Groves City Council appointed Gunderson to the position at its meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 5.
In this newly acquired position, Gunderson and his fellow committee members will oversee, among other areas, the Old Orchard Shopping Center. The shopping center is a for-profit component of Webster University that generates tax revenue within the city of Webster Groves.
The council approached the university with the position opening when commission member Barb Ehnes, former director of community and media relations at Webster, retired at the end of last year.
Mara Perry, staff liaison to the Old Orchard Business District, said the intent of the group is to promote and enhance the environment. To accomplish its objective, the commission consists of people who represent a variety of organizations, including businesses, offices and institutions.
“All of them can come together and make decisions on how to use the tax money from the districts,” Perry said.
Perry said there are multiple benefits to having university representation on the committee.
“Institutions look at the district in a very different manner than a business owner would,” Perry said. “(Webster University) is a property owner. And when you own a portion of the property within a district, how improvements impact that can be very important.”
The commission consists of nine members with the stipulation that all either own property or operate a business within the district.
Gunderson has worked with local organizations in the past, including Webster Groves High School, Emmanuel Episcopal Church and Nerinx Hall High School. He has also worked with a variety of city administrative offices, while developing and implementing improvements to the university.
“The first six years of my professional accounting career were related to tax issues, so I felt I would be a good match for this commission,” Gunderson said in an e-mail interview.
Although the committee’s goals for 2013 have yet to be finalized, Gunderson said his personal objective is to learn.
“As a new member to the commission, I intend to listen and learn from more experienced commission members before setting any specific agenda,” Gunderson said. “But strong local businesses play a vital role in providing the citizens of Webster Groves with the services they desire and a stable tax base to support basic city services.”
Webster Groves Mayor Gerry Welch said Gunderson is going to join a group of business owners on the commission.
“It’s another perspective at the table,” Welch said. “Though the university itself is not in this specific taxing district, there are certainly links. I mean, the Old Orchard area is very much linked to the university, so that perspective is always an important one.”
Positions on the committee are held for three years. However, because Gunderson has joined the committee during a partially filled term, he will only serve until November 2014. Gunderson can ask to be reappointed if he so chooses when the end of his term approaches.