As a first-time candidate running for Arvada City Council, it can be an overwhelming journey because as you are running you are learning how to run for local office. Every day you learn something new about the process, hear more from your neighbors about what they care about and want from council, and research programs and policies that have worked in the past or elsewhere to further your ability to tackle the complex challenges within a city. As I often say "I may know policy, but politics is another beast!"

I am proud to see how engaged many Arvada residents are in local issues, but truthfully most citizens don’t have the time or bandwidth to follow along as much as they’d like to. In that vein, I thought it might be helpful to share some of the processes and learnings I’ve picked up along the way in the hopes of strengthening the connection we feel with our local government and inviting others to engage and learn along with me in this journey.

So let's dive a little into what running for local office really means…

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It’s nonpartisan. That means candidates cannot and will not run as a party. You can be registered with a party but that doesn’t mean you run as a D or R. Frankly, I’ve found it to be quite refreshing to not have to "pick a side" to serve in local office. While people might want to bucket a candidate, the job is to represent the city and make smart choices for us all. To ensure my campaign is true to the nonpartisan theme, I have worked hard to diversify my local volunteer campaign team, which is composed of Arvada business owners, veterans, Arvada police officers, social workers, LBGTQ+, as well as conservative and liberal residents. I am proud that we can bring different ideologies together to support common goals for our community.

You have to fundraise (a lot)! I was shocked to learn I’d have to fundraise more than my annual nonprofit salary for a local election! At-large candidates in Arvada may receive a max donation of $750 from any business or individual, while district candidates have a max donation limit set at $500. There is no restriction on the type of business that may donate, though candidates should be thoughtful to avoid any real or perceived conflicts of interest (ie: a developer or business that has interests that could end up before the council). For this reason, my campaign will only accept donations from parties that do not do business with or for the city. I know many other candidates feel the same.

We make tough decisions. Council oversees funding for programs like our police department, our lovely parks, as well as reviews business and housing developments. It is imperative that councilmembers represent different perspectives and experiences as well as know-how to listen and advocate for our neighbors' needs. My background in housing policy, social work, and military police will help bring a unique lens when making tough calls. 

Character also matters a lot. Your councilmember is your community’s advocate, so when looking at candidates it is important to look beyond experience to  what kind of leader they are and if that is the leadership style you want for your neighborhood. Councilmembers often set the tone and example of our community so it is important to look at the character and values of a candidate, not just their experience.

We “play nice”. When candidates file to run in Arvada, we agree to keep it clean. (There’s even a pledge!) That means we don't talk trash about each other and we redirect our supporters to not slander or lie. We are all tired of mudslinging and negative messaging in politics and our neighbors don’t want it in our amazing city.

It’s not a full-time job. In addition to running, I still work my job in disaster/emergency response with Team Rubicon and will still serve on Arvada and Jeffco boards and commissions (such as the Arvada Chamber Resiliency Taskforce, City Charter Committee, and Jeffco Advisory Board that oversees federal community grant funding). That means candidates answer emails in the morning before work, over lunch and return calls to voters on breaks and in the evenings. City Councilmembers do not receive offices, cell phones or expense accounts. Councilmembers earn a salary of $13,800 a year, before taxes. This amount has not been raised in many years.

While it takes a lot of energy to run for office (and serve if elected), it is because of a duty to serve my community that I push forward. I am running because I believe each of us has a role to play in helping one another and our community. So as we dive into campaign season, be sure to ask questions directly to candidates. Engage with them, and learn more about who they are and their values. Be careful of things said on social media or rumors - that is not the community dynamic we strive for. Here in Arvada, we do things a little better. I’m proud of that fact, and I am excited for this fall. I hope you are too.   

Reach out - I’m always here for you!

Email: Lisa@LisaForArvada.com

Cell: (720) 675-8854

 

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Lisa Smith is an Air Force Veteran and Social Worker currently running for office in Arvada, Colorado.

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