GREELEY —Candidates for five available seats on the Greeley City Council are starting to come out of the woodwork in a year where some expect to see record number of people running for public office.
One analyst who works to get more people involved in local politics across Colorado has watched the interest in civic involvement more than double in the last few years, and she fully expects that to continue to grow as Democrats rail against President Donald Trump and Republicans rail against new state policy by a Democrat-controlled General Assembly.
“Absolutely,” said Kathleen Chandler, coalition manager for the Independence Institute* about whether she’s seen an increase in interest. “That is exactly why at the last several local government training classes I’ve had 30-40 people show up on Saturday morning for 4 hours to learn about how they can get involved.”
Chandler says she gets phone calls two or three times a day from people asking how they can get involved. Her classes have more than doubled in the three years she’s hosted them.
“I meet with people all the time,” she said. “People have finally realized that standing here and yelling at the television about what Donald Trump is doing is not helping out Colorado.”
A growing number of young people have been attending the classes, looking to become involved.
At 29, Tommy Butler certainly fits that description. Butler, who notified Complete Colorado of his intention to run for Greeley City Council on Thursday, has been politically involved since he was in college. He most recently ran for a position a Weld County board. Although he lost that bid, his love of Greeley he said, is what pushed him to try again, this time city council.
“Greeley is a vibrant and diverse city with a bright future ahead of it, but we will only meet that potential if we elect bold leaders to take on our challenges and plan for our future growth responsibly,” Butler, a Democrat, said.
Butler told Complete Colorado he has spent most of his adult life working on political campaigns, including Barak Obama and with non-profits.
“I have seen the importance of listening to what is affecting people in their everyday lives,” Butler said. “Whether you agree or disagree with me, I will always be willing to talk about new ideas and solutions.”
On the other side of the spectrum is current Greeley Mayor John Gates, a Republican, who announced his intent to seek a second term on Friday. Gates, who is the Director of Safety and Security for Greeley-Evans School District 6, has served 10 years on the council already, eight as a council member and two as mayor.
He also cited a love for his community and the need to continuing healing a community divided over politics as some of the reasons for his re-election bid.
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“I remain committed to bringing trust, confidence and credibility to the office of Mayor,” Gates said.
Gates’ first few weeks on the job in 2017 were trying as two members of the council left to pursue higher offices, one council member was removed for lying about a previous felony conviction and a municipal judge successfully challenged being let go from her position.
But in 2018, voters agreed to extend a sales tax in part, Gates said, because residents are beginning to trust city officials and staff again.
“Our residents have gotten over their inferiority complex toward the city and care about Greeley,” he said.
Chandler said people also realize they have a voice, and that it’s ok to fight back whether it’s on the left or the right.
“They don’t have to sit and complain,” Chandler said. “They can do something about it. People have realized we need to get involved at the local level to really help Colorado. Donald Trump and the national perspective is not going to help Colorado. Donald Trump and the national perspective is not going to help Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights violations at the local level.
Butler agreed. He told Complete Colorado he may have first realized his excitement for politics when he worked on the Obama campaign right out of college, but it’s local politics that really excites him.
“One thing that you can’t do at the state and national level is get people’s trust back in government,” butler said. “At the national level, people don’t see it as part of their everyday lives. Locally, it is.”
*Complete Colorado is a project of the Independence Institute.