Jeffco commissioner candidate profile: Lesley Dahlkemper, Democrat

Posted 6/12/22

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Jeffco commissioner candidate profile: Lesley Dahlkemper, Democrat

Posted

Bio: Lesley has called Jeffco home for 27 years and lives in south Jeffco with her family. As your county commissioner, Lesley provides leadership statewide and locally on some of the most pressing issues facing our community including wildfire risk reduction, opioid prevention, economic development, early childhood education and more.

Why are you running for county commissioner? 

Our family has called Jefferson County home for 27 years. It’s a great place to raise a family, start a business, enjoy the outdoors, or retire. As the gateway to the Rockies, Jefferson County offers a quality of life that’s unparalleled. I’m running for re-election because I believe in improving lives and building opportunity across our county. I have a proven track record of successfully addressing wildfire risk reduction, attracting jobs, supporting local businesses, protecting our public lands, increasing trails and open space, fighting the opioid epidemic, and promoting safe, inclusive communities. 

What is your biggest strength as a candidate? 

 For me, success in work and life hinges on integrity, trust, and relationships. It’s about asking questions, seeking different perspectives, listening, and finding common ground. Count on me to bring these skills to the table to find workable, lasting solutions for our community. I know how to build coalitions to tackle some our most pressing issues, including wildfire risk, the opioid epidemic, and COVID recovery. I’ve increased community involvement in the county’s budget decision-making process, too. My experience as a former business owner, journalist, and nonprofit leader has been devoted to improving outcomes in our community and statewide. 

 As a commissioner, what would you do to support economic development in Jefferson County? 

 As a former small business owner, I know a robust local economy depends on understanding businesses’ needs and workforce demands. My work with local Chambers of Commerce and on the Jeffco EDC Board ensures we’re attracting new companies to Jeffco, connecting employers and job seekers with the help of our Workforce Center, and leveraging federal COVID recovery dollars. Our online permitting process cuts red tape for businesses. I’m proud of our recent public-private partnership creating a renewable energy park to advance emerging technologies bringing hundreds of new jobs to Jeffco and an opportunity to serve as Colorado’s renewable energy hub. 

 Do you see the county taking a role in a Jefferson County homeless shelter? 

 Jefferson County alongside Arvada, Edgewater, Golden, Lakewood, Westminster and Wheat Ridge, in partnership with Heading Home, launched the homeless navigator program. Through these partnerships, we recognize that homelessness is a countywide and regional issue. The Jefferson County Homelessness Action Plan and an analysis for sheltering options further underscored the need. We’re focusing on the Housing Navigation Center as a model that can most effectively connect people with pathways to housing. As Jefferson County and our partners work through the details of this project, community involvement and feedback are critical.  

Your seat incorporates sections of west Jefferson County (Conifer, Pine, etc.) where the wildland urban interface is a major discussion point. What issues specific to that area would you address? 

More than two-thirds of Jeffco is in the WUI where development meets forested areas. Fire risk is exceptionally high, water supply is low, and population is growing. These issues are especially urgent for my constituents. Jefferson County ranks number one in the state for property loss due to wildfire risk. I led efforts to harden homes, expand defensible space, and increase mitigation. Wildfires don’t distinguish between county lines. My work on the Colorado Fire Commission also focuses on lowering fire risk statewide in the WUI. We expect fast-moving wildfires will burn hotter and longer in increasingly dry conditions.

 What role would you play in wildfire mitigation? 

  • Appointed by Governor to Colorado Fire Commission, which successfully passed groundbreaking legislation and secured more funding in 2021-22 to reduce risk. 
  • Created and chaired Jeffco’s first-ever Wildfire Risk Reduction Task Force to increase mitigation, community education, and funding. 
  • Allocated $2.8M in ARPA funding to reduce wildfire risk based, in part, on the task force’s recommendations. 
  • Doubled slash collection days for homeowners in 2022.  
  • Approved a seven-fold increase in thinning dense forests on 1,000 acres of Jeffco Open Space. 
  • Updated the county’s building and residential codes to harden new and existing homes by increasing defensible space and ignition-resistant building materials 

What are the two most significant issues facing the county today and how would you propose to address them? 

In addition to wildfire risk, housing costs are soaring. With our partners, we increased affordable senior housing in south Jefferson County and broke ground on new affordable housing in Golden, Arvada, and Lakewood. We must continue to invest HUD dollars that helped us leverage $163 million in private funding and an additional $138 million in other public funding, preserving nearly 1,500 affordable units since 2012. Jeffco’s also facing a backlog of transportation projects, exacerbated by the labor shortage and skyrocketing costs of materials. We’re pursuing funding, strategically identifying projects, and using innovative approaches to recruit talent.  

What one part of county government would receive more attention if you were elected?  

 Jeffco has faced major budget cuts over several years, especially the general fund which supports every department and elected office in the county, except Jeffco Public Library. We look across all operations for greater efficiencies and innovative approaches to balance the budget. We think strategically about what’s an essential county service, such as public safety. The Jeffco Sheriff’s Office remains the second-best funded Sheriff’s office in Colorado. It’s a priority for me, including supporting school resource officers and mental health co-responders. I’ve also led efforts to increase your voice in the budget decision-making process to ensure your priorities are heard. 

 What is your vision for the future of Jefferson County? 

 Our community has seen significant challenges over the last two years, including addressing mental health issues, financial stability, COVID response and recovery, racial equity, and more. With challenges come opportunities. In response, we have remained nimble, adapted to constant change, and more deeply connected with our community. Core to this work was updating our strategic plan so people in our community feel engaged and heard as we plan for the future. Our collective vision is to be a county government that provides equitable, innovative, efficient, and quality service to a thriving and safe community.

Anything else you want voters to know? 

The person you elect to lead matters because your vote has a direct impact on our quality of life. Were a community that values partnerships over protecting turf. We advocate for workable solutions over win-lose politics. We must give equal importance to tackling inequality as we do economic development. Thank you for trusting me to work with you and for you. Our work to improve lives and build opportunity is far from over. That’s why I’m running for re-election as your county commissioner and I’m asking for your vote. With your help, we’ll move Jeffco forward together! Visit www.dahlkemperforjeffco.com.

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