When Council President Stacie Gilmore first moved to Montbello 25 years ago, it was the community that drew her there. Gilmore said she and her husband hand-picked the neighborhood where they would go on to raise their three children because of its diversity, its energy and its people.
Now, as the District 11 representative on the Denver City Council, Gilmore has dedicated herself to honoring the community and all it stands for.
Gilmore was elected into the City Council in 2015 and re-elected in 2019. During that time, she became council pro tem in 2018 and 2019 and council president in July 2020. As president, she is responsible for running the 13-member body’s weekly legislative meetings, appointing members to committees and sitting on all committees. In addition, she chairs the Budget and Policy Committee.
Prior to her time on council, Gilmore, a third-generation Coloradan, co-founded the nonprofit learning center Environmental Learning for Kids in 1996, raising over $6 million and being honored by The White House and President Barack Obama as a Champion of Change.
Halfway through her second term, Gilmore talked to The Denver Gazette about her time serving District 11 – comprised of the Denver International Airport, Gateway, Green Valley Ranch and Montbello neighborhoods.
What made you want to become your district’s city council representative?
During my almost 20 years with Environmental Learning for Kids, I saw families struggling time and time again. They were working multiple jobs, their hours weren’t conducive to advocating for their child's education, they felt like they didn’t have a voice. And on top of educational concerns, they were also concerned about housing stability, access to healthcare, workforce development or anything that they needed to make sure they were going to be able to fully actualize their potential. So, after 20 years of supporting families and children, I wanted to run for City Council so that I could enact policy change to support the people I was serving through that nonprofit work.
How has your experience as a council member been so far?
There’s never a dull moment and I love it because I believe our City Council is doing great work together. We have all come through a worldwide pandemic and it seems like we’re at that place right now where we’re going to be able to close this chapter and turn the page. It’s been a huge learning experience, it’s been nonstop work and I’m really proud of this time on council. We have learned how important it is for the community to be able to come together, share their voices, advocate on their own behalf and see government, nonprofits and other community stakeholders be responsive. We get better policy and outcomes when we’re working together and listening to each other.
I’m very blessed and grateful that I have been able to carry on and make policy changes. We recently passed the rental license policy to help support renters. For the first time in our city’s history, renters will be able to know that their housing meets the city’s minimum housing standards and there will be a requirement for a written lease as well to help support our families and housing stability. I was also happy to support and co-sponsor the minimum wage increase. We’ve greatly increased the affordable housing fund, as well.
In District 11 specifically, I’ve been able to advocate for some of those large, structural infrastructure projects, such as the widening of 56th Avenue. We’ve also got Costco, Natural Grocers and Sprouts either in the neighborhood or coming to the neighborhood, so I’ve been really successful in securing those grocery stores and retailers. We’re really looking at all aspects of our neighborhood’s needs.
We all know that government moves very slowly and that was a source of frustration, and it is still a source of frustration for myself and my constituents. Some of the things that we're proposing or asking for are not new ideas, they have been around for decades. It takes a bit too long to enact the change that we need to see to support our families and small businesses and community. That’s why, in City Council, under my leadership, we’re creating more policy and process so we don’t have to recreate things all the time and so we get some things done quicker than we’re doing now.
You never know what each day is going to bring, and some days are easier than others. Some days are difficult but there’s so much passion and dedication and energy of my city council colleagues that it’s easy for me to lean on them for support. And I think that is indicative to the people who are serving on City Council. We all want to support each other so that we can do the best work possible. It’s okay if we disagree on policy and direction because we are all committed to the constituents of Denver and hearing their concerns and working on those concerns. The best part of being a public servant is customer service.
As a council member, what are your priorities for the future?
I would be honored to continue in my role as president of the City Council and it’s looking like all is going to work out just fine. I look forward to leading with Council Pro Tem Jamie Torres and working as a City Council on the 2022 budget process so that we can, early on, secure multiple, if not hundreds, of millions of dollars that council is advocating for.
We’re also looking at how we shore up and support our community through youth programming, nonprofit support of neighborhood residents and businesses, mental health resources, transitional and additional housing options for folks experiencing homelessness. We need to look outside the box and be innovative about how we’re keeping folks housed in the city and how we grow generational wealth through home ownership, especially in our vulnerable communities. We’re also looking into how to address food access, sustainability and transportation.
I want my legacy to be one that I listened to people. That I was intentional in my response, and I always kept to my word. And I think that the almost 30 years I worked on opening access to the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge shows that, when I say I’m going to do something, when I commit to being part of a process, I will do everything in my power to stay true to my word and to advocate for my community’s voice.
We’ve accomplished amazing things by having an elected official in place who lives those values. We have gotten grocery stores for the first time, we have gotten road widening that will open access and make it safer to travel in our neighborhoods, we have increased open space and parks, we have created more affordable housing, we have created more for-sale housing to build generational wealth and create housing stability. I have seen first-hand how that mentality is conducive to getting things done and that it's always in partnership with the community.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.