Wendi Strom, a member of Lakewood's City Council, is the first to announce a she is running for mayor. Mayor Adam Paul is term-limited and cannot run again.
The Jeffco Transcript sat down with Strom, who announced her campaign in February, to ask about her priorities, city issues and why she decided to run.
Answers have been edited for brevity and clarity.
Jeffco Transcript: Why run for mayor?
Councilmember Wendi Strom: Honestly, I’m running because I think we can do better, and I do want to make sure we continue to move the conversation forward on some really crucial things we’ve been working on this year like housing, affordability of housing, homelessness, public safety.
There’s some division in the community, and I would even say there’s some division on the dias. There’s the "no-growth" narrative and the "we-need-affordable-housing" narrative, and it’s not a zero-sum game. Right now, it feels like we need to be more strategic and we need to be more collaborative.
JT: Homelessness is a major issue in Lakewood: what is your perspective as to where the issue stems from and what ideas/solutions would you be pursuing as mayor?
WS: I don’t have specific solutions right now. The navigation center is definitely one solution. It’s already out there, but it’s going to take some time to implement. Having something in place like that where it’s got the wrap-around services, I think, is critical and making sure we are addressing the human element of it while providing the housing element.
One of the things that has been really important during my time at council, and part of the reason I ran, was that I want to make sure, and do everything within my power, that our residents have the opportunity to make an income that allows them to live where they work, or work where they live, or live where they grew up, or live near their grandparents — the choice, the ability to choose.
And focusing on a lot of retail jobs doesn’t necessarily provide for that. Right? So, where can we be doing better to provide jobs that really allow people to be able to afford to live where they work.
JT: Are there any topics you feel you’d be able to address as mayor that you couldn’t as a councilmember?
WS: There’s not anything I feel I couldn’t address. We’ve started the conversation. It’s just a matter of making sure we continue the conversation and do so in a collaborative way that helps us move forward towards a solution and not get stuck in disagreement.
Being mayor allows me the ability to make sure that we continue to move those conversations forward and in a functional and collaborative way so we can give all of the community the solutions they deserve.
JT: Are there any other topics, similar to housing, you think you could better push along as mayor?
WS: I think the other big one is public safety. That’s everywhere. And by public safety, that includes safety on our roads and streets for our cyclists, for our kids walking to school, for our cars, but it also includes crime.
I’ve been excited to see that a crime and public safety conversation has really escalated all the way to the governor this year because I do believe, especially in a metropolitan area, we can’t operate in a silo. In my ward especially, you will have people every single way, driving up and down Wadsworth (Boulevard) who have no idea what city they’re in.
Most people don’t know, and that’s OK, but I think that’s what really speaks to the need for us to have a collaborative regional approach, and I do think this is something statewide as well.
JT: What are these public safety issues?
WS: Addressing crime, and I think one important one in Lakewood that’s not necessarily at the state level is multimodal, which is street safety, public safety on our streets.
JT: Where do you believe the line falls for responsibilities of the city and the city council? For example, should the city engage with gun control legislation, or stick with zoning codes and funding the parks and police?
WS: Zoning, parks, police — gun control falls back to that same thing that I mentioned that your average everyday individual doesn’t know whether they are in Lakewood or Denver, or Littleton or Jeffco. I do feel like things like that need to have a regional approach.
JT: What public safety policies could the city push for than?
WS: One of the things, not with the Lakewood Advisory Commission right now, but I had asked to be sent over last year, was an evaluation of having cameras on the roads to monitor speeds. And I know that can be a little bit of a lightning rod for people, but we’ve heard from a lot of folks concern about speed on a lot of our streets.
It’s a multi-pronged approach, none of these things are going to fix everything, but right now I think there’s a lot of things we can start to tweak to try and move the dial, especially given our realities within the landscape of our police department, and staffing issues.
JT: What do you feel like you’d be doing different as mayor?
WS: I feel like what I’d be doing differently is, one, I’m here now. I understand the role, the policy-making role. So, not brand new, but new enough that also I’m not entrenched in this mentality of "this is the way we’ve always done it."
I’m not saying that the current mayor does that, but I’m just saying that there is something to be said for a fresh perspective, and there’s also what I feel I’ve been able to bring to the table this year, which has been the ability to communicate with different members on council, and try to better understand where people are coming from.
This isn’t just council but also the community. Sometimes there’s some very loud voices, and there can be some negative tones to that, and it’s hard, I will say — especially when those are some of the consistent ones that we hear — it’s hard for us sometimes as leaders to not think that’s the only opinion that’s out there.
What I’ve done is been really intentional in trying to be in and aware of other people that are having different experiences and likewise would be looking for different solutions, so that we really are truly making policy decisions for 168,000 people. I think with a very concerted effort we can get feedback from people that aren’t just those that show up on Monday nights (to comment at City Council meetings).
JT: Why do you think you have the ability to be mayor after only two years on the council?
WS: Well, the beautiful thing is, people can be elected for president now without having any experience in government. I’ve been in leadership roles, honestly since high school. I have experience leading people and making collaborative solutions, and that’s what I think Lakewood needs right now.
JT: What immediate priorities will you have if elected?
WS: Part of it is the housing part definitely, but I also understand that is the Titanic ship. ... That’s not going to be a quick mover. So, that’s not a day-one-in-office type of thing.
Public safety, definitely. Also, I want to make sure that we have a functional council body that really is focused on the work that is the work that is ours to do. When we are not functioning as a cohesive body, the community suffers from that. That is one thing I can work on from day one.
It is setting the stage at the beginning for how we can do our best jobs, how we can show up as individuals at City Council meetings and within our community to really do the best job.