When he was 12 years old, Jose Lindner and his family moved from Cuba to Columbia after his father, Luis Lindner, got a job teaching Spanish at Stephens College. Nearly 50 years later, Lindner has been named Citizen of the Year in the very same place.
Lindner, a local accountant and commercial developer, received the 2007 Outstanding Citizen Award from the Columbia Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday night at the chamber’s 102nd Annual Meeting and Awards Banquet held in Stephens College’s Kimball Ballroom.
“This could not be a bigger surprise,” he told the crowd.
The Columbia Chamber of Commerce has presented the award for 28 years to individuals who have served the community and been involved in the Chamber of Commerce, Columbia chamber President Don Laird said. This year, the members decided Jose Lindner fit the bill.
Lindner is involved in numerous organizations and has held many leadership roles, including serving as the chairman of the chamber’s board of directors in the mid-90s. He was also a founding member of the Central Missouri Development Council, according to a news release from the chamber.
Lindner’s sister, Maria Mendenhall, said Lindner’s commitment to serving the community stems from being an immigrant.
“This town took us in with open arms,” she said. “We’ve always tried to give back what they’ve given to us.”
Even in his commercial developments, Lindner said he strives to make Columbia proud.
“Every time we’ve done a development, we’ve tried to go one step up,” he said.
Lindner started Forum Development Group, which built Forum Shopping Center, Nifong Center, Broadway Shoppes and Broadway Bluffs.
Through Providence Farms LLC, Lindner has recently acquired about 1,000 acres of county land south of Columbia. Many have speculated that Lindner is planning another development of some kind, but he has yet to comment.
“We wait until (plans) are all done to let people know,” he said, “What we say doesn’t always happen.”
Lindner’s sons have been working with him in his business for years.
“There’s nothing nicer than building a business from the ground up and sharing that with your family,” he said.
Many family members and friends came to show support for Lindner at the ceremony. One high school friend, Rod Kelly, was sure to show up. “He’s a good buddy and a good friend,” he said, “Everyone else is just finding out what we’ve known forever.”
Others praised Lindner for his approach to business.
“(Jose’s) trademark is to approach every issue with interest, caring and a sense of humor,” said Blake Danuser, owner of Bingham’s Traditional Clothing, in the news release.
Lindner displayed this humor while making light of his health situation.
“As you guys know, I’ve got a little problem with my ticker,” he said in his acceptance speech. He has been on the waiting list for a heart transplant for 137 days, said his wife, Barbie.
In Lindner’s introduction at the ceremony, Richard Mendenhall said Lindner, now a naturalized citizen of the United States, “embodies all that is great about this country and what a citizen should be.”