by Jennifer LeDuc
When Edgewater residents cast their ballots in November they’ll be deciding between not just two candidates for mayor but four, and choosing among six candidates for three council seats (one council member is running for a second term).
In a town with a population just over 5,300, that works out to about one in 500 residents running for a seat in city government. In Lakewood, a city about 30 times larger than Edgewater, there are 11 candidates, or about one in every 14,000 residents campaigning. In Wheat Ridge, a town with a population of approximately 32,000, again, 11 candidates, or one in 2,800 residents. Arvada has seven candidates for three positions, two of which are unopposed, and that works out to about one candidate per 16,700 residents.
So what is going on in Edgewater that is drawing out such a disproportionately high number of candidates compared to its larger neighbors, you might ask. Surely there are some angry, fed up folks with pitchforks and torches ready to take on Edgewater city hall, right?
“What I think is going on is Edgewater is growing in a positive direction and when residents see that it draws you to want to get involved,” suggested council candidate Cory Reid-Vanas.
Indeed, when asked about their thoughts on what such a disproportionate number of residents getting involved says about the state of Edgewater, the sentiments expressed by Reid-Vanas quite succinctly summarized the sentiments of other current council members and some of this year’s candidates.
For Councilor Kate Mulcahy, it was the feeling that she really could make a difference in her community that spurred her decision to run in 2015.
“I know noone is ever 100 percent happy,” Mulcahy said. “But I know for me when I ran there was no animosity, it was purely ‘I love this city’ and I wanted to be involved, and this is a city I thought I could make a difference in.”
“It’s great when the city can generate so many candidates who honestly have a love for the community rather than because the local government isn’t doing their job,” said Councilor Todd Riddle, who is also one of four candidates for mayor.
Having lived in other Colorado communities before settling in Edgewater, like other residents Reid-Varas sees the city optimally sandwiched between Denver and the foothills, although not just in terms of prime access to amenities, but socially.
“My experience in Edgewater,” he said, “is you have room for very diverse population and citizenship. I know people highly involved and engaged, and people who are very private, and Edgewater supports that, and each individual gets to decide what they need and can experience that in Edgewater.”
Councilor Myra Keeble recalls several elections where candidates ran unopposed, and recognizes issues have changed since she was first elected, but so has public interest.
“There’s a lot of interest in what we’re doing now,” Keeble said, and like her peers cited the planned civic center as a particularly magnetizing project in the community. “I think because things are going pretty well, people want to be a part of that process. They like our city, it feels lively, and we’re doing exciting things and they want to be apart of it.”
Outgoing mayor Kristian A. Teegardin isn’t surprised at the number of candidates on the ballot, nor is he surprised to hear such positive and cohesive sentiments echoed amongst current and prospective council members.
“I think over the last three or four years we’ve made concerted efforts to engage our citizens and people are becoming more involved,” said Teegardin, reflecting on his tenure and collaboration with city council. “As mayor I've made concerted efforts to have citizens involved and at the very least have citizens informed as to what’s going on.”
Originally from a small town in Indiana, Teegardin, who is a candidate for state House District 24, said those small town values are infused in everything he does “everyday.”
So is Edgewater’s size the reason for its current optimistic and successful energy when more schismatic engagements seem to pervade the politics of larger neighboring communities?
“I don’t want to discount the size of Edgewater but I think throughout all localities when you get granular and into the neighborhoods, you see what’s important to everybody. People matter,” said Teegardin. “They drive the boat and if the representatives aren’t in touch with those folks it doesn't matter how big or small you are, it becomes a problem.”