Arvada made a bit of history on Election Day, as voters selected Lauren Simpson as the city’s first new mayor in 12 years — and the first elected female mayor in Arvada’s history.
Ahead of her swearing-in on Nov. 13, Simpson spoke with the Arvada Press about her goals for the next four years, where she sees Arvada fitting in with the Denver Metro area, and how she plans to lead city council. Answers have been shortened for clarity.
Arvada Press: How are you feeling in the wake of Election Day results?
Lauren Simpson: I am just tremendously excited, to be honest. I have worked so incredibly hard for my constituents in the city and the council these past several years.
To have that work recognized and have the voters believe in me, and trust me to put me in this office, means more than I can possibly say. And I know it’s going to be a lot, but I’m so ready for it, I’m excited to do it and I just want to deliver results for Arvadans.
AP: What are your biggest takeaways from the campaign trail?
LS: The first takeaway is clearly the voters thought that they had an excellent choice between two qualified candidates. That had been my sense when I entered the race, was that we were going to have an excellent race and an excellent choice for Arvadans.
So, it’ll be my job to represent all our values and to make sure that that other half of the city (that voted for John Marriott) sees that I am working for them as well. And that is exactly the type of mayor I want to be.
The second takeaway from this election is that really, truly hard work pays off. I have been hitting the doors and focusing on this campaign relentlessly for months. And I’m so pleased that we were able to reach the voters and inspire people and get them to the polls and deliver this result.
AP: Switching from District 2 to a citywide office, what are some issues you’ve been made aware of outside your old district?
LS: One that really stands out in my mind is transportation on the northwest side. It’s no secret Indiana (Street) is an issue. We’ve heard about this forever. And that is something that I was already aware of.
But what I wasn’t really aware of is the difficulties of navigating even just small sections of it. For instance, I had parents in Five Parks tell me it takes 30 kids or teenagers an hour to get to Ralston Valley High School. There should be an eight-minute drive at most.
And then there are kids who walk who hopped the railroad tracks, and as a parent that makes my gut twist because I’m envisioning a teenager getting their foot caught and injured. We need to do better in terms of safety in terms of transportation.
I would love to see us tackle Indiana, I would love to see us implement sidewalks and bike lanes.
AP: As mayor, what will be your approach to making partnerships with other civic leaders and organizations throughout the metro area?
LS: I’m really excited to get started on this. Obviously, we have Metro mayor’s caucus. The Jefferson County mayors have an informal group where they get together. I’m really looking forward to getting started and building those relationships.
Obviously, Mark Williams has been such a dominant force in Jefferson County politics for so long that it’s going to be a very different dynamic. And that’s certainly not lost on me. But I’m also very lucky that Lakewood has a new mayor as well, and we are the two largest cities in Jefferson County.
Harvard University does a three-day seminar for newly elected mayors from around the country, paid for by Harvard and Bloomberg Philanthropy, so it’s not going to cost the taxpayers a dime.
And (Lakewood Mayor) Wendy (Strom) and I discussed it, and we’ve decided that we’re both going to go and participate in this program together to both work on how we’re going to develop our leadership styles, how we can be cooperative, and strategies that have worked along with mayors from all over the new mayors from all over the country.
AP: Do you anticipate any growing pains with a fairly inexperienced city council?
LS: I don’t really expect growing pains, it really is just that we have a very new council and finding our rhythm will be really crucial. When I joined the Council, I was the only new member and everybody else was quite senior at that point. So, I was very lucky that I had a highly experienced council that I could observe, and I got up to speed fairly quickly.
But there’s also a lot of opportunity I see because now there’s that new lens that refreshing lens, I think is really important. And one of the big takeaways from this election is I think Arvada was ready for that, to be honest, that was something I heard from countless constituents is that they were ready for something new that it was time for something new.
That’s no sleight to anyone else. It’s just you have to constantly be looking for new ways, new improvements changing with the times. And I think we are simply in a period of change in Arvada. And our council reflects that period of change.
AP: What do you believe the city’s relationship with Mission Arvada — the homeless ministry that operates out of The Rising Church in Olde Town — should look like going forward?
LS: Mission Arvada is protected by the First Amendment; we can’t force anything. I want to work with them as partners in a way that makes sure that they can continue to do their important work and that they feel included.
And it’s time for a fresh start with a lot of our community partners. And I just look forward to being able to go in and have a fresh start with a lot of people. Sometimes when you don’t have the relationship history weighing you down, it gives you the opportunity to hear somebody.
AP: What is your vision for Arvada four years from now?
LS: You know, Arvada four years from now will look a lot like Arvada today, some of these big development projects that we are seeing them put up right now will obviously be finished, and there will be people there.
And so, four years from now, I would like to see us have really dynamic, amazing community spaces, I would like to see us have improved accessibility around the city, and improve transportation solutions on the northwest side, or at least making really good headway on it.
We love Olde Town; Olde Town is the heart of our city. But every other part of the city matters as well, absolutely. And so just being able to bring that sense of community and gathering space, just across the board.
It’s a long-term vision, but it’s something that we can start to make progress on all over.
AP: How do you see Arvada fitting into the broader Denver metro area?
LS: We’re the coolest suburb, and we’re going to stay that way! Arvada really is special; Arvada does have a unique identity. Marc Williams always calls it Mayberry as a city, I have always identified it as the charm and feel of a small town with all the amenities of the major metro area.
We do have a very unique identity, we have a history, we have a tradition and a charm. And everything we do needs to be informed by that.
When we look at solutions, we need to say, ‘Is this going to disrupt the character of our surrounding community?’ And if the answer is yes, then maybe we shouldn’t do it.
AP: What does it mean to you to be the first elected woman mayor in Arvada’s history? (Simpson is the third female mayor overall in Arvada. The city used to appoint mayors, and the other two were appointed).
LS: It means a lot — a lot of the data shows that, subconsciously, the public still looks more favorably upon men for executive roles than they do women. And so that was something I was keenly aware of when I ran for this office.
Knowing that I was able to reach the voters, that I was able to earn their trust that I had enough experience, enough judgment, enough character to hold this office. That means a tremendous amount to me.
For youth in particular, I have had people say to me, it matters to them, matters to their daughters.
I’m hearing it a lot from voters about their teenage daughters, how much it means that they see a strong woman as the mayor. And that it means and that it means just as much that their sons see that as well.
AP: What is your overall outlook for the next four years?
LS: I am really looking forward to getting started. It’s going to be a really good four years.
I am so pleased with the city that I’m inheriting, and Arvada is in really good shape. Our residents should know that. We have a healthy Council. We have a wonderful city team. We do not face many of the dysfunctional issues that some of our neighboring cities do face. I plan to protect that and grow it.
Arvada is in really good shape, and I’m going to keep it that way.