Election 2021 Q&As: Candidates for Centennial mayor and city council

Colorado Community Media
Posted 10/6/21

Centennial residents are voting for mayor and one of four other city council seats, in the election that ends Nov. 2. Ballots go into the mail starting Oct. 8. Stephanie Piko is running unopposed for …

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Election 2021 Q&As: Candidates for Centennial mayor and city council

Posted

Centennial residents are voting for mayor and one of four other city council seats, in the election that ends Nov. 2. Ballots go into the mail starting Oct. 8.

Stephanie Piko is running unopposed for re-election as mayor, also an at-large city council member. Also up for election are council seats representing District 1, the far west part of the city, encompassing most of the portion between South Broadway and Colorado Boulevard; District 2, the part of the city north of Dry Creek Road and mostly west of Quebec Street; District 3, the area that extends from parts of southwest Centennial to the city's southeast region, past Parker Road; and District 4, the area that encompasses most of northeast Centennial, largely in the vicinity of Smoky Hill Road. Residents vote in the district where they live. See which district you're in on the map above or at tinyurl.com/CentennialDistrictMap.

The Centennial Citizen sent questionnaires to each candidate to help voters learn more about them. Here are their responses, edited for clarity.

MAYOR

Stephanie Piko (unopposed)

Occupation: Mayor of Centennial, substitute teacher for Cherry Creek School District

Years lived in jurisdiction running to represent: 20-plus years in the same home

Campaign website: Stephaniepiko.com

Why do you want to continue to serve as Centennial mayor?

Being mayor of Centennial for the past three-plus years has been more challenging and, at the same time, more rewarding than I could have imagined. One of the most rewarding aspects of being a part of local government is you get to see results as policies and programs are implemented. Many things that were priorities for me four years ago have been or are close to being completed, and now — thanks to COVID — I have a great deal of confidence that as a municipality, we have the resiliency to continue to serve our constituents through … an economic and/or a personal safety and health crisis.

What would you say are your most important qualifications for the office of mayor?

Taking the time to listen and learn about how our community interacts inside Centennial as well as outside Centennial is what creates the ability to effectively engage with constituents, councilmembers, staff and other local, state and federal officials. The breadth of my experience over the past 10 years as an elected Centennial official provides me with unique insights and approaches that work in finding pragmatic solutions to local/regional problems.

If elected, what would be your first priority in office?

It is important to me to take advantage of the lessons learned and the advancements made — especially in technology — over the past two years to enhance the city's ability to continue to “bridge the gap” in communications with our constituents. We have more citizens engaged than ever and more ways to provide information than ever. This provides an opportunity for the city to communicate with our citizens where they are and with what platform works for them.

What, in your view, is the greatest single issue facing Centennial, and how would you address it?

Centennial's location and Denver South's ability to attract employers will continue to make transportation and commute times an issue that impacts residents and visitors. The completion of our FiberWorks network and the soon-to-be completed Intelligent Transportation System will offer the opportunity to bring an adaptive transportation grid to the city. This system will have the capability to adjust to road and traffic conditions in real time. I will focus on working with our neighboring municipalities, the county and the Colorado Department of Transportation to further integrate our network data to improve drive times.

Housing in Centennial including single-family homes and apartments continues to become less attainable for young people and young families. Should city council play a role in addressing that issue, and if so, how?

The cost of housing is rising across the country. The reasons for it are many and the solutions for it complex. The city has opportunities to add to our housing stock in a few places — including The District Centennial (formerly The Jones District), which will offer a variety of housing options and where the development plan encourages and incentivizes for-sale products. … The city (should) support opportunities to create that “starter home” experience … that will continue to support our school districts and bring young families to Centennial … That will involve people being able to invest in our older home stock and update/upgrade homes to meet their needs. It is important that Centennial provide building services that streamline the renovation process for citizens, reducing the cost and burden of reinvesting in our homes.

COUNCIL DISTRICT 1

Robyn Carnes

Occupation: Vice president of expansion with a national organization that fights sex trafficking

Years lived in jurisdiction running to represent: 18 years

Campaign website: CarnesForCentennial.com

Why do you want to serve on the Centennial City Council?

First, I love Centennial just like you do, and I want to maintain the city's nature and quality of life. Second, I'm a hard worker, a realistic optimist, and I've always been a courageous leader. I want to contribute to building on Centennial's strong foundation into the future. Can you believe it … Centennial is now celebrating its 20th year with over 100,000 people living here? Our “town” has successfully made it through childhood and adolescence into adulthood. Congratulations to the Centennial founders and their legacy. We are the inheritors of their brilliant foresight and diligent work.

What would you say are your most important qualifications for the office you're seeking?

I serve as vice president of a national organization that fights sex trafficking. I am open, accessible and committed to honesty, teamwork and achievement. I have been a proven leader in everything I've done. I don't believe in the “other” — I feel that the artificial boundaries that divide us are just that: artificial. When it comes to governing, I believe (a quote sometimes attributed to) Thomas Jefferson: “That government is best which governs least because its people discipline themselves.” I trust the people of Centennial. You have proven yourselves over the last 20 years. I want to build on your rationality and accomplishments.

If elected, what would be your first priority in office?

Your current city council, led by Mayor Stephanie Piko, is a model of sound government. Centennial isn't broken, but it faces challenges like keeping our people safe everywhere in our community, supporting low taxes, deciding on the redevelopment of The Streets at SouthGlenn, maintaining and improving roads, combating ever-increasing crime and homelessness, keeping our schools safe and academically strong, making housing more affordable, and maintaining a healthy business environment that promotes success. I work for you. That is not simply my philosophy; it is my conviction. My priorities are transparency, responsiveness and responsibility to you, and city efficiency and effectiveness.

What, in your view, is the greatest single issue facing Centennial, and how would you address it?

Centennial is an island of calm, safety and prosperity compared to our neighbors Denver and Aurora. However, their problems are creeping into our city. First, I fully support law enforcement, and second, I will assertively tackle these and other issues with transparency, clarity, honesty and responsiveness. A priority for the council is redeveloping The Streets at SouthGlenn … I will say that I favor moderation and invite and respect the people's views, especially those in surrounding neighborhoods.

Housing in Centennial — including single-family homes and apartments — continues to become less attainable for young people and young families. Should city council play a role in addressing that issue, and if so, how?

Yes, our city council should appropriately take on the task of making affordable housing available. Young families, especially, need a starting place to live, with the goal of ultimately owning a home. This is an important consideration for the future of our vibrant community. Today, the median price of a single-family home is ($555,000 in the Denver metro area)! It's a tough start for many families that Centennial can help make easier. This is important assistance that our city can compassionately provide. We can extend a hand up to these families, and I will work to establish standards, goals and realistic policies that make sense.

Fernando Branch

Occupation: Philanthropic position as senior director of partnerships and programs for Colorado "I Have a Dream" Foundation

Years lived in jurisdiction running to represent: Since 2012 

Campaign website: branchforcentennial.com

Why do you want to serve on the Centennial City Council?

Having the opportunity to serve on Centennial City Council would be one way for me to give back to the community that has shaped and supported me and my family for the past 10 years. I believe that the strongest communities are grounded in a commitment of collaboration, purpose and communication. Over many years, serving as an educator and an administrator (in Denver Public Schools), I have developed key skills to connect people and the community to think differently about challenges, shared goals and innovative solutions for an ever-changing world. This is why I hope to have the opportunity to serve. 

What would you say are your most important qualifications for the office you're seeking? 

I took the time to learn about how our city works. As a past participant in Centennial 101, it was important for me to understand how our local government functions. How does a building plan go through the approval process? How are streets prioritized for plowing after it snows? Where do your tax dollars go? These were just a few topics that were discussed that helped our cohort better understand our city's systems and structures of operations … I am committed to listening to what our residents are saying and acting in the city's best interest and the residents' best interest.

If elected, what would be your first priority in office? 

If elected, my first priority would be to set up a listening tour of the precincts I represent in District 1. It's important that I understand the views of our whole community. I'm a firm believer in the philosophy of going slow to go fast. We are #OneCentennial.

What, in your view, is the greatest single issue facing Centennial, and how would you address it?

We have to move the conversation away from “affordable housing” to attainable housing. We often like to group them together, but they really have two different meanings. The fact that we have teachers, law enforcement officers, nurses, firefighters and other public-service workers that are priced out of our community is not the best way to moving Centennial forward. I believe that it is important for us to innovate in our development and city planning to attract these professionals because if they can serve our community, they should also have the opportunity to live in it.  

Housing in Centennial — including single-family homes and apartments — continues to become less attainable for young people and young families. Should city council play a role in addressing that issue, and if so, how?

Our city council has a great opportunity to make Centennial the North Star for Colorado on this topic. We can work with developers to zone new projects, similar to attracting public-service workers, to create a win-win scenario for our great city now and in the future.

COUNCIL DISTRICT 2

Tammy Maurer (Unopposed)

Occupation: Transportation engineer

Years lived in jurisdiction running to represent: Lived in District 2 for 38 years

Campaign website: tammymaurercitycouncil.com

Why do you want to continue to serve on Centennial City Council?

I have enjoyed being on Centennial's City Council for almost four years and have continued to learn what it takes to keep the city healthy, safe and engaged as a community, and businesses vibrant. It has been rewarding getting to know District 2 residents and learning of their concerns and thoughts. Last year, council faced two new very difficult challenges: COVID-19 and social justice concerns. Experiencing these issues has provided me with an appreciation for the city's services we have today as well as given me the experiences I will be able to use for the next four years.

What would you say are your most important qualifications for the office you're seeking?

Prior to being on city council, I had served on a number of city-related boards and committees, including the Centennial Council of Neighborhoods (CenCON). I also served as president for my neighborhood civic association. I bring to city council my unique background as a transportation engineer, where I relate to the city's public works team along with being able to communicate transportation-related aspects to citizens. I currently serve on several local and federal transportation planning boards, including Denver Regional Council of Governments (DRCOG), State Transportation Advisory Board, Reimagine RTD, and National League of Cities Transportation Infrastructure Services.

If elected, what would be your first priority in office?

Today the city is fiscally sustainable — however, if the city is to continue to provide services at the same level, consideration of how has become a very important topic. Today, the city's largest revenue source is retail, which has changed from in-store purchases to online. Retail revenues also includes restaurants, and what type of establishments are sought after by consumers has also changed. Going forward, it will be important to address how to keep a sustainable budget, be mindful of our taxes and maintain our city services at the level we as residents have come to appreciate.

What, in your view, is the greatest single issue facing Centennial, and how would you address it?

Traffic is one of the city's biggest challenges, and I will continue to work with the city's public works team to address congestion and improve safety (and) address congestion through various “smart” traffic management applications. I will continue to work with our state and federal representatives to push for additional transportation funding … that will be applied toward roadway network improvements that include alternative routes for Arapahoe Road. I will look at infrastructure alternatives that can support alternate transportation modes that include transit, bike and pedestrian, as these modes not only reduce roadway congestion but are also mitigation measures that improve air quality.

Housing in Centennial — including single-family homes and apartments — continues to become less attainable for young people and young families. Should city council play a role in addressing that issue, and if so, how?

The city's employment opportunities continue to increase, and Centennial's City Council is now challenged with finding ways to allow for more housing that does not take away from what we have come to know as the city of neighborhoods. If the city does not address the issue, more problems will arise such as more single-family homes becoming home to more than one family, in addition to more traffic congestion from employees needing to commute from outside the city. This issue will need to be considered with balance for housing needs and respect for those that live here today.

COUNCIL DISTRICT 3 (Unopposed)

Mike Sutherland

Occupation: Benefits counsel for Fire and Police Pension Association

Years lived in jurisdiction running to represent: 27 years

Campaign website: sutherlandforcentennial.com

Why do you want to continue to serve on Centennial City Council?

I enjoy working as a council member. COVID-19 slowed the city's progress on transportation initiatives and infrastructure improvements that are now back on schedule. I want to see the intelligent transportation system (ITS) project on Yosemite (Street) completed and expanded to Arapahoe and Dry Creek roads to improve traffic flows. We have much work to do to revitalize our retail centers. I support the city's renewed focus on retaining and attracting businesses, and I'm eager to assist in any way I can. I would like to continue work to address the lack of affordable housing and to assist the homeless.

What would you say are your most important qualifications for the office you're seeking? 

I have 15 years of experience with Centennial, 12 as a planning commissioner and three on city council. I have practiced law in Colorado for over 30 years in both the private and public sectors. I understand how the state and local governments interact. I serve on the Legislative Action Committee for the South Metro Chamber of Commerce. I respond to emails and return phone calls. I am collaborative in making decisions. I am respectful of others with different views.

If elected, what would be your first priority in office?

Councilmembers cannot solve all of the world's problems, but they can make life better for those in their communities, one small step at a time. Transportation, economic development, public safety and housing are all materials intertwined in a seamless garment that needs my care and attention to maintain and improve Centennial life as I continue to serve Centennial. I will continue to focus on these four essential materials. 

What, in your view, is the greatest single issue facing Centennial, and how would you address it? 

Change. Many people don't like change, but Centennial's retail centers are aging with empty storefronts. Centennial must adjust to the changing retail climate to encourage unique businesses to locate here. Adjusting the zoning code to allow more mixed-use development in areas that are not zoned for single-family homes is necessary. The delicate balance is preserving Centennial's desirable neighborhoods while encouraging development of for-rent and for-sale multi-family housing to attract first-time residents and retain those downsizing from larger homes. If the balance is not maintained, people will find other communities that meet their needs.

Housing in Centennial — including single-family homes and apartments — continues to become less attainable for young people and young families. Should city council play a role in addressing that issue, and if so, how?

Yes. The video entertainment game, SimCity, where players could create their own cities, was popular in the 1990s. Unfortunately, in real life in the 2020s, market forces and not screen clicks drive housing and other development. Council should provide zoning and other incentives to foster new multi-family housing development so that young people can rent or buy a first Centennial home that gives them a chance to live here and a foothold in the market.

COUNCIL DISTRICT 4

Marlo Alston

Occupation: Community relations and development manager

Years lived in jurisdictionrunning to represent: 17 years

Campaign website: marloalston4citycouncil.com 

Why do you want to continue to serve on Centennial City Council? 

I am running for re-election to continue to serve the Centennial community for District IV. I have experience as a current councilmember and understand the challenges our city faces. I have the experience, knowledge, energy and passion to continue delivering the solutions our community needs. I ask for your support as we continue to move forward together.

What would you say are your most important qualifications for the office you're seeking?

I am currently serving on city council and have the knowledge and experience to understand what our residents expect and want of the city functions for services, growth and responsible government.

If elected, what would be your first priority in office? 

My first priority in office, if reelected, would be to ensure that our city government is responsible to our residents. I would do this by making sure our city government remains transparent to all citizens and that services provided by the city are available to all, ensuring equity and equality in all resources.

What, in your view, is the greatest single issue facing Centennial, and how would you address it? 

Although homelessness is a concern, I believe the greatest single issue facing Centennial is attainability and stability of housing. Studies show Coloradoans … struggle to afford housing. Pulse, The Colorado Health (Foundation's) recent bipartisan study, found “a significant number of Coloradans are struggling to afford housing in 2021 — with 21% of Coloradans worried they might lose their home in the next year because they can't afford the rent or mortgage.” I will continue working for Centennial by promoting opportunities for all by listening and working with my constituents and organizations to address our housing needs in Centennial appropriately. 

Housing in Centennial — including single-family homes and apartments — continues to become less attainable for young people and young families. Should city council play a role in addressing that issue, and if so, how? 

Yes. As an elected official, I believe it is our duty to work with developers and others and require that developers offer a variety of housing options so we can remain a sustainable community. Housing options that I support are inclusive of mixed uses, condos, townhomes and attainable housing.  

Centennial should have homes that newly graduating college students, teachers, doctors, scientists and our first responders would be proud to call home. Having residents that work and live in Centennial increases the strong bonds of community.

Neal Davidson

Occupation: Retired; last position was as a co-founder and co-owner of an online company in Centennial that sells outdoor gear with an emphasis in fly fishing; background in telecommunications

Years lived in jurisdiction running to represent: I have lived in the same home for 29 years.

Campaign website: friendsofnealdavidson.com

Why do you want to serve on Centennial City Council? 

I want to serve on Centennial City Council to help keep Centennial the great city that it is. About five years ago, I was at an event where the speaker said that if you don't like the direction of America, get involved at the city, school board or county level. This has resonated with me. 

What would you say are your most important qualifications for the office you're seeking?

My most important qualifications are that I have been a successful businessman. I am not a politician and have never run for office. I have a strong motivation to help others.

If elected, what would be your first priority in office? 

Frankly, my first priority in office would be to understand the workings of the city and to inquire of my constituents what they see as the most needed issues. I know quite a few people in Centennial and would use this to filter and discern how to best combine their desires with the city's focus.

What, in your view, is the greatest single issue facing Centennial, and how would you address it? 

The single biggest issue in Centennial is public safety. Law enforcement requires respect and a close working relationship. They must be fully supported by the city and not threatened by them.

Housing in Centennial — including single-family homes and apartments — continues to become less attainable for young people and young families. Should city council play a role in addressing that issue, and if so, how? 

Housing in Centennial and almost every city in America is a very important issue. The city could work closely with developers/builders to create some affordable housing. The problem is that outside investors would try to purchase these units, which would only create more of a problem. I would like to explore to see if it is feasible to keep these units owner-occupied only. This would create a whole new set of issues, but it could be a step in the right direction.

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