Editor’s note: Jon Christensen is the current treasurer and tax collector for Riverside County. Hakan Jackson is challenging Christensen. Unfortunately, Jackson has not responded to phone calls or emails from the Town Crier requesting an interview. 

Jon Christensen has been with the Riverside County Treasurer’s Office for nearly 16 years. He rose from chief deputy to senior chief deputy. Then in July 2017, the Board of Supervisors appointed Christensen as treasurer and tax collector when Don Kent, the former treasurer, resigned to take the post as the county’s finance director.

As he finishes the final 10 months of Kent’s term, Christensen is ready to stand for election

Jon Christensen, candidate for Riverside County Treasurer and Tax Collector.
Photo courtesy Jon Christensen

as treasurer for a full, four-year term. The last time the incumbent treasurer was challenged was 1998. Since then, in four elections, no one opposed the incumbent.

Running and campaigning for the first time, he said, “… is absolutely a humbling experience to see people rally around you.

“I felt alone going into the process, then when support begins, it absolutely blows your mind,” Christensen said. “The board supports me, but they are political folks. But when the custodian made a sign, it was overwhelming.”

All five supervisors have endorsed him, as well as Sheriff Stan Sniff and Peter Aldana, the county assessor, and Paul Angula, the county auditor.

After his military service, Christensen entered the financial profession. He was a stockbroker. After several years with Morgan Stanley, he was asked to run the county’s investment portfolio and agreed.

This work led to one of his proudest achievements. “A lot of counties lost money during the ‘Great Recession.’ But we didn’t lose any and maintained our AAA rating. Still have it today,” Christensen said.

And the other portion of the job, tax collector, has created some of the hardest moments in his career. “Dealing with disadvantaged taxpayers, who are losing a home or have medical or other expense, it makes us the bad guy and can be very difficult,” Christensen lamented.

His office mails tax bills to county property owners, but it is the Assessor’s Office that establishes the tax amount, he stressed. His staff collects more than $3.6 billion annually.

The county’s tax delinquency rate is about 1.3 percent, he added. When he assumed responsibility for that staff, it was 3 percent, due to the recession.

In the short term, Christensen is looking forward to the final steps leading to the county’s adoption of a new taxation system. This will integrate the Assessor’s, the Auditor’s and his office, which is ready to go.

“This should be live later in 2018 or early 2019,” he added. The current taxation system is 45 years old and based on mainframe computer technology.

If he is elected, his long-term goals are to simplify the system of money coming into the county, including the accounts receivable, with a unified portal — one website.

As a first-time candidate, Christensen said, “Unfortunately, people don’t care about the Treasurer’s Office until they read about it tin the paper, such as the Orange County fiasco years ago. I care deeply about Riverside County.”

He is a fifth-generation Riverside County native. Including his children and grandchildren, there are seven generations of Christensens from this county. The first generation arrived in the 1870s, from Northern California, according to Christensen.