Adams County Commissioner District 5: Race for commissioner AdCo’s largest district draws trio of veteran public servants

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    Just one of the five commissioner districts in Adams County touches Aurora, and that’s the sprawling District 5. The district includes not just Aurora, but the entire eastern edge of the county as well as unincorporated areas near Denver International Airport. With all that space, you wouldn’t expect a crowd, but that’s what the race to fill the District 5 seat is getting. Incumbent republican Jan Pawlowski, Democrat challenger Mary Hodge and independent Renie Peterson are all vying for the seat. While District 5 is Aurora-centric, voters from across the county now get to cast a ballot in each race. After years of scandal plagued the commission, county voters restructured the board four years ago. Now, instead of three commissioners, there are five. And every county voters get to cast a ballot in each race, regardless of where they live. While only about 50,000 people live on the Aurora side of Adams County — which includes everything north of East Colfax Avenue — the county is home to several key Aurora developments. Those projects include the Gaylord Rockies Hotel and Conference Center, the Anschutz Medical Campus and the oft-delayed Veterans Affairs Hospital adjacent to Anschutz — all of which sit in District 5.

    [srp display_thumbnail=”no” widget_title=”Recent Secretary of State Race News” widget_title_hide=”no” post_limit=”5″ post_content_type=”excerpt” post_content_mode=”titleonly” post_date=”no” post_author_url=”no” category_title=”no” post_category_link=”yes” category_include=”15105″]

    [wc_accordion collapse=”1″ leaveopen=”0″ layout=”box”] [wc_accordion_section title=”About the Race“]

    By BRANDON JOHANSSON, Staff writer

    Race for commissioner AdCo’s largest district draws trio of veteran public servants

    Stretching from about U.S. Highway 85 east to the county line, Adams County Commissioner District 5 is a sprawling one.

    In fact, the county’s other four commissioner districts could fit inside District 5 a couple times — and there’d still be room to spare.

    Mary Hodge
    Mary Hodge

    That massive district also includes some chunks of Aurora that have taken an outsized importance for both the city and county.

    The district is home to the Gaylord Rockies Hotel and Conference Center, Anschutz Medical Campus and an expanse of plains near Denver International Airport that city leaders have long said was ripe for major development.

    And fitting a district of its size and importance, this year’s race to represent District 5 has not only two candidates familiar to Aurora voters, but three.

    Incumbent Republican Jan Pawlowski is looking to win a second term on the board, while Democrat Mary Hodge, who is term-limited in her state Senate seat, is looking to continue to serve the public, if in a different capacity.

    Also tossing her hat in the ring, as an independent, is Aurora City Councilwoman Renie Peterson, who petitioned her way onto the ballot in July.

    The three are looking to represent some important parts of Aurora on a board of commissioners that hasn’t always had a cozy relationship with the city.

    Jan Pawlowski
    Jan Pawlowski

    Pawlowski, a former Brighton mayor, was elected to the board in 2014 when voters bumped the number of commisioners from three to five.

    She said that in her almost two years on the board she has spent a lot of time in Aurora — something she said regularly surprises the city’s residents.

    “I’ve been told by Aurora city officials that they seldom saw commissioners in attendance,” she said.

    Pawlowski has said her time in municipal government in Brighton would help her improve the relationship between the cities and the county. That relationship is getting better, she said, and it’s an important one to her.

    “I value those relationships and look forward to keeping an open dialogue with our cities,” she said.

    Hodge said that simply by the nature of the projects on the Adams County side of Aurora, the county and the city will have to work closer together.

    “The relationship between Aurora and Adams County will become much tighter with our mutual interest in projects around DIA and Fitzsimons redevelopment,” she said.

    Hodge said she is already familiar with the area having represented the north end of Aurora at the state Capital.

    “I will bring my experience to this next level of representation,” she said.

    Aurora has long-considered becoming a city and county, effectively severing ties with Arapahoe, Adams and Douglas counties. But after years of study, city leaders said the idea would be too pricey and largely scrapped it.

    renie-peterson
    Renie Peterson

    Peterson, who has represented parts of Adams County on city council for eight years, said that decision will go a long way toward improving city and county relationships.

    “By ending this attempt to become our own city and county Aurora sends a new message to counties that we are partners,” she said. “We will begin a new relationship with the counties that should benefit both city and county relations.”

    Peterson said the fact that she is an independent will also help.

    “I am the voice of reason, not beholden to party dictates or special interest groups,” she said.

    [/wc_accordion_section] [wc_accordion_section title=”Mary Hodge’s biography“]

    Mary Hodge is no stranger to the ballot in Adams County or Aurora. Across a decade and a half, the Brighton Democrat has served in both the state House and state Senate representing neighborhoods that include a large swath of Adams County, including chunks of Aurora. She is running for commissioner after term limits forced her from the state Senate seat she holds.

    [/wc_accordion_section] [wc_accordion_section title=”Jan Pawlowski’s biography“]

    Norma “Jan” Pawlowski is seeking a second term on the Adams County board of county commissioners. She was elected just two years ago to one of the two new seats on the commission. If she wins again it will be for a four-year term. She previously owned a business in Brighton and was elected that city’s mayor.

    [/wc_accordion_section] [wc_accordion_section title=”Renie Peterson’s biography“]

    A longtime resident of the Adams County side of Aurora, Renie Peterson has served on the Aurora City Council for a decade. Peterson opted to enter the race as an independent rather than winning one of the party’s nomination. That meant she had to collect signatures to petition her way on the ballot and the county clerk and recorder certified her petitions in July.

    [/wc_accordion_section] [wc_accordion_section title=”Mary Hodge’s issue questions and responses“]

    What makes you the most-qualified candidate? My background and experience make me the best candidate.  16 years in the General Assembly, 4 years on the Joint Budget Committee, 12 years of Local Government and Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee membership and leadership.  I’ve also worked as a teacher in elementary schools, in a Montessori pre-school, been a union employee for a truckling company  in Aurora and the office manager for a Fortune 500 company, also in Aurora.  My husband and I owned and operated a small motel in Wyoming and currently have rental property in Adams and Weld Counties.

    As commissioner, what steps would you take to improve the relationship between county administration and the various municipal governments in Adams County? I have always had an open door policy. I have earned the reputation of being a good listener and think, if the relationship needs improvement, listening and hearing each other is a good start.

    Now that Aurora has largely scrapped it’s efforts to become a city and county, how do you see the relationship between Aurora and Adams County changing in the coming years? The relationship between Aurora and Adams County will become much tighter with our mutual interest in projects around DIA and Fitzsimons redevelopment.

    Considering the rapid growth in Aurora near Denver International Airport — including the Gaylord Rockies hotel project and proposed Aerotropolis — does the board of commissioners need more representation from Aurora? Adams County Aurora has been competently served for the last 16 years by someone who knows the district well.  There is no need to change that.  I will bring my experience to this next level of representation.

    What should the county do to increase available water for development and reduce wells in the aquifer?  The county should work with developers in finding available water for development.  However, the developers are ultimately responsible for adequate water and rules are in place to reduce the reliance on the non-replenishable Denver basin aquifer.

    [/wc_accordion_section] [wc_accordion_section title=”Jan Pawlowski’s issue questions and responses“]

    Editor’s note: Adams County Commissioner Jan Pawlowski Candidate sent the following in response to the same list of questions provided to all commissioner candidates:

    As the incumbent, elected in 2014, it is my opinion that keeping me in place for another term is vitally important. As with any political position, there is what is referred to as “a learning curve.” After 20 months in office, what a complete waste of taxpayer dollars it would be to start over with someone new!

    For information, when a county goes from three commissioners to five, by state statutes, one is a two-year term, the other a four. The county seat, Brighton, got the two-year term.

    In this past 20 months, so many changes have begun, changes which I have either initiated or led in support of: We set up a $1 million fund as a small business loan program for Adams County businesses, with part of the DIA settlement monies; awarded $1 million in scholarships to county high school seniors on free or reduced lunch programs with high grade point averages; are refurbishing a wing at the Adams County jail designed to reduce “repeat offenders” to address mental issues believed to be at the core of repeat drug or alcohol offenders; in attempting to provide more open communication with taxpayers, I ask the commission to finish out 2016 by holding evening meetings on the first Tuesday of the month, to have more access, plan to attend one or more meetings to see where and what your taxes are going towards; many issues have been brought to light regarding over 1,600 miles of dirt/gravel roads and a population who feels very much neglected; old urbanized neighborhoods that are in need of curb-gutter-sidewalks; overcrowded roadway issues; mass transit issues; the list literally goes on and on.

    Six of Adams County Mayors have endorsed my re-election. Because of my time serving as Brighton’s first woman mayor (2001-2009), I have already established many relationships with current and past elected officials.

    I value those relationships and look forward to keeping an open dialogue with our cities.

    I have never taken a stance on the county issue. There are pros and cons to becoming a county, the initial cost of positioning to set up as a county is huge. Just building a jail alone and expanding the safety issues at that level would be a big undertaking and expense.

    Keeping communications open with our partners has always been important to me. I have in the past 20 months attended many functions, where I’ve been told by Aurora city officials that they seldom saw commissioners in attendance before — that disturbed me and, therefore, I continue to make the commitment to be as visible as my time permits.

    The voters decided on five commissioners and that they had to reside in a district, but would be voted on countywide. That has created the necessity of the five of us having to cover a county the size of the State of Rhode Island with a population of nearly 500,000.

    At the county level, we have very little input into infrastructure for growth. In my opinion we need to be more involved.

    However, the overwhelming majority of planned housing starts in the municipalities. Along the Highway 7 corridor alone, there are nearly 55,000 new home starts from Erie, Broomfield and the northern and western parts of Adams, so the water resources required for those alone is enormous. And because of the anticipated growth, we all need to be working together.

    My commitment is make a difference in the lives of all county residents with a common sense approach to governance through open communications.

    [/wc_accordion_section] [wc_accordion_section title=”Renie Peterson’s issue questions and responses“]

    What makes you the most-qualified candidate? I am a lifetime resident of Adams County and have represented Ward II residents of Aurora (covers areas of both Adams County and Arapahoe County) as an Aurora Councilwoman for 8 years. During my tenure I have been asked to review several issues affecting my constituents that have affected both Adams County and the City of Aurora. I am the voice of reason, not beholden to party dictates or special interest groups.

    As commissioner, what steps would you take to improve the relationship between county administration and the various municipal governments in Adams County? I would endeavor to be even-handed with no pre-conceived opinions of all matters presented for my deliberation.

    Now that Aurora has largely scrapped its efforts to become a city and county, how do you see the relationship between Aurora and Adams County changing in the coming years? By ending this attempt to become our own city and county aurora sends a new message to counties that we are partners. We will begin a new relationship with the counties that should benefit both city and county relations.

    Considering the rapid growth in Aurora near Denver International Airport — including the Gaylord Rockies hotel project and proposed Aerotropolis — does the board of commissioners need more representation from Aurora? Adams county and Aurora are working to improve the developmental plan for growth surrounding the airport. We are a team in this effort.

    What should the county do to increase available water for development and reduce wells in the aquifer? An updated Comprehensive plan would include the availability of water for Adams future growth. Current drilling is down to the third aquifer.

     [/wc_accordion_section] [wc_accordion_section title=”LIGHTER SIDE: Mary Hodge’s personality questions and responses“]

    What food do you hate most?  Liver

    Do you indulge in recreational marijuana? No

    Who would play you in a movie about your life?  It’d have to be satire.  Surely there’s a tall skinny blonde available.

    What Olympic Sport so you wish you could win gold at?  Figure skating on ice

    What was your favorite childhood candy? Snickers

    If you could be an eyewitness to one event in history, what would it be? V-E Day in Reims, France

    If the Secret Service gave you a code name, what would it be? Smiley

    If you had to sing karaoke, what song would you sing? Car karaoke counts. It’s a small world

    What epitaph would you like written on your tombstone? Nope, not here

    Is a hot dog a sandwich? Yes

    What is the last concert you attended? Brighton High School Spring Chorale

    What movie do you never tire of watching? Animal House

    Dogs or cats? Dogs

    What’s the most overrated thing about living in Colorado? You can’t overrate Colorado!

    [/wc_accordion_section] [wc_accordion_section title=”LIGHTER SIDE: Jan Pawlowski’s personality questions and response“]

    Editor’s note: Adams County Commissioner Jan Pawlowski Candidate sent the following in response to the same list of questions provided to all commissioner candidates:

    As the incumbent, elected in 2014, it is my opinion that keeping me in place for another term is vitally important. As with any political position, there is what is referred to as “a learning curve.” After 20 months in office, what a complete waste of taxpayer dollars it would be to start over with someone new!

    For information, when a county goes from three commissioners to five, by state statutes, one is a two-year term, the other a four. The county seat, Brighton, got the two-year term.

    In this past 20 months, so many changes have begun, changes which I have either initiated or led in support of: We set up a $1 million fund as a small business loan program for Adams County businesses, with part of the DIA settlement monies; awarded $1 million in scholarships to county high school seniors on free or reduced lunch programs with high grade point averages; are refurbishing a wing at the Adams County jail designed to reduce “repeat offenders” to address mental issues believed to be at the core of repeat drug or alcohol offenders; in attempting to provide more open communication with taxpayers, I ask the commission to finish out 2016 by holding evening meetings on the first Tuesday of the month, to have more access, plan to attend one or more meetings to see where and what your taxes are going towards; many issues have been brought to light regarding over 1,600 miles of dirt/gravel roads and a population who feels very much neglected; old urbanized neighborhoods that are in need of curb-gutter-sidewalks; overcrowded roadway issues; mass transit issues; the list literally goes on and on.

    Six of Adams County Mayors have endorsed my re-election. Because of my time serving as Brighton’s first woman mayor (2001-2009), I have already established many relationships with current and past elected officials.

    I value those relationships and look forward to keeping an open dialogue with our cities.

    I have never taken a stance on the county issue. There are pros and cons to becoming a county, the initial cost of positioning to set up as a county is huge. Just building a jail alone and expanding the safety issues at that level would be a big undertaking and expense.

    Keeping communications open with our partners has always been important to me. I have in the past 20 months attended many functions, where I’ve been told by Aurora city officials that they seldom saw commissioners in attendance before — that disturbed me and, therefore, I continue to make the commitment to be as visible as my time permits.

    The voters decided on five commissioners and that they had to reside in a district, but would be voted on countywide. That has created the necessity of the five of us having to cover a county the size of the State of Rhode Island with a population of nearly 500,000.

    At the county level, we have very little input into infrastructure for growth. In my opinion we need to be more involved.

    However, the overwhelming majority of planned housing starts in the municipalities. Along the Highway 7 corridor alone, there are nearly 55,000 new home starts from Erie, Broomfield and the northern and western parts of Adams, so the water resources required for those alone is enormous. And because of the anticipated growth, we all need to be working together.

    My commitment is make a difference in the lives of all county residents with a common sense approach to governance through open communications.

    [/wc_accordion_section] [wc_accordion_section title=”LIGHTER SIDE: Renie Peterson’s personality questions and responses“]

    What food do you hate most? Anchovies.

    Do you indulge in recreational marijuana? No .

    Who would play you in a movie about your life? Meryl Streep.

    What Olympic Sport so you wish you could win gold at? Swimming.

    What was your favorite childhood candy? Any penny candy.

    If you could be an eyewitness to one event in history, what would it be? World peace.

    If the Secret Service gave you a code name, what would it be? Tenacious

    If you had to sing karaoke, what song would you sing? Car karaoke counts. “Kansas City”

    What epitaph would you like written on your tombstone? Resting in God’s hand.

    Is a hot dog a sandwich? No.

    What is the last concert you attended? ZZ Top at Red Rocks.

    What movie do you never tire of watching? “Forrest Gump”

    Dogs or cats?  Both.

    What’s the most overrated thing about living in Colorado? Marijuana

    [/wc_accordion_section] [wc_accordion_section title=”Mary Hodge’s campaign finance“]

    Click here for Mary Hodge’s Campaign Finance Reports

    [/wc_accordion_section] [wc_accordion_section title=”Jan Pawlowski’s campaign finance“]

    Click here for Jan Pawlowski’s Campaign Finance Reports

    [/wc_accordion_section] [wc_accordion_section title=”Renie Peterson’s campaign finance“]

    Click here for Renie Peterson’s Campaign Finance Reports

    [/wc_accordion_section] [wc_accordion_section title=”Mary Hodge’s endorsements“]

    Not available.

    [/wc_accordion_section] [wc_accordion_section title=”Jan Pawlowski’s endorsements“]

    Not available.

    [/wc_accordion_section] [wc_accordion_section title=” Renie Peterson’s endorsements“]

    Not available.

    [/wc_accordion_section] [/wc_accordion]