PERRY:  Like the city’s dad, Mayor Paul Tauer of power got stuff done for Aurora 

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Mayor Paul Tauer delivering comments during a press conference about Denver’s Stapleton Airport sometime in the late 1980s. SENTINEL FILE PHOTO BY RANDY TOBIAS

So much changed in Aurora during the quarter century that Paul Tauer presided from the dais at city hall.

But not Paul.

Those who knew and worked with Paul as first a member of the Aurora City Council, and then as mayor from the late 1970s into the turn of the century, consistently remember him, in part, for his steadfast consistency.

Paul died early last week at 86.

He wasn’t just the face of Aurora as the city faced off frequently with Denver, its airport, Denver, the State of Colorado, Denver, the United States military and a long list adversaries through the ages.

Paul was essentially the city’s dad.

He was that always protective father of Aurora from old black-and-white TV sitcoms who moved decisively from episode to episode, year after year, decade after decade. As the city’s dad, he was endlessly proud, amusingly impatient and sometimes famously curt.

For those in their 50s and older, think Dick Cheney morphed with Danny Thomas. For those under 50, google it.

A devout Catholic dad of eight kids, and leader of his St. Pius X congregation in north Aurora, he wore his religion, his opinions and his frustrations on his sleeve.

“Aurora was very different from Denver in how it approached things,” Judge Steve Ruddick recalled about Aurora led by Tauer, as opposed to Denver, led by mayors Bill McNichols, Federico Peña and, especially, Wellington Web.

Ruddick knew Paul first as a community activist, then as a city lawyer, a state lawmaker, a city prosecutor and ultimately a county court judge.

Ruddick was a Democrat. Paul was a Republican. Back then, partisan politics were as vital a part of city hall as were the city lawmakers’ alma maters.

Given the partisan schism on today’s city council, it’s hard to even imagine.

During the 1980s, while Denver and Aurora negotiated with each other and the U.S. Air Force during the decommissioning of Lowry Air Force Base, Denver was pensive, cautious and inclusive to a fault, Ruddick recalled. He was part of Aurora’s negotiating team.

Under Tauer, “Aurora was like, ‘We made our plan. Just go for it,’” Ruddick said.

Tauer’s impatience often bordered on impetuousness.

“Well, that was Paul Tauer,” recalled former city Communications Director Sherry Patten. “He wanted to get things done — now.”

It sometimes served him, and the city, well.

Tauer was the leading force in pushing Denver to close Stapleton Airport after decades of north Aurora residents suffering airliner noise created by a landing path right over thousands of Aurora homes.

Tauer was the leading voice, regularly and loudly, barking at Denver and whoever was in the mayor’s office at the time. Paul held Denver in check with its old airport, and as it annexed huge swaths of land to build Denver International Airport.

And Tauer was instrumental in rolling a very different pair of dice for the region when the Army finally abandoned Fitzsimons Army Medical Post. That’s when Aurora hustled the University of Colorado Hospital, School of Medicine, School of Nursing, School of Dentistry, Children’s Hospital and, ultimately, the VA Hospital right out of Denver and onto Aurora’s dying military base.

Those here for that deal say Tauer’s one-upping Denver was just as sweet a victory as bringing the crown jewels to Aurora.

“Paul was like the banned pit bulls in Aurora,” Ruddick recalled. “They’re pretty friendly. They can be kind. But if they clamp onto you, they don’t let go.”

I got bit once by Paul, or nearly hit, anyway.

Part of the Tauer legacy includes Paul’s youngest son, Ed Tauer. Ed followed in his proud father’s footsteps onto the city council, applying for a city council vacancy position in 1997. Eventually, Ed, too, would become mayor.

Paul deeply disliked that The Sentinel pointed out how his influence over city council could sway an appointment vote, or at least appear to. The paper’s editorial board suggested Ed run for a seat rather than apply for an appointment, unless Paul stepped away from the process.

At a meeting where applicants were interviewed for the vacant council seat by other members of city council, I got “the look” from Paul.

“Oh, yes,” former City Councilmember Barb Cleland recalled about “the look.” She described it as if his eyes clamped down on you just before his words did. “Paul and I would have disagreements on the council dais.

“I would get, “the look,” she said.

“After the meetings, we would end up in his office and have some really heated arguments. But afterwards, he would always give me a hug.”

I didn’t get a hug that day for crossing his two kids: Ed and the city’s image.

Sensing the tension, I approached Paul at his chairman’s seat before the meeting started and fumbled some question about the timeline for appointing the vacant council seat.

Paul clenched both fists, hard. His face became visibly and seriously red as he stared at the table. He turned slightly toward me, and I bent closer to hear him.

“Get. Away. Now.” Tauer said with his teeth firmly clenched.

I slunk back to my seat against the wall, between city staffers and officials, one of them being the police chief. The chief leaned over and remarked how he thought Tauer was about to take a swing at me, and how awkward was that going to be?

I was pretty much press-soma-non-grata after that.

Paul was always civil and sometimes cordial to me in the years that followed, but I was the guy who attacked his kids, unforgiven.

It was that unending and unrestrained pride and love for Aurora that helped push it far past being just another Denver suburb.

Tauer, and his wife, Kate, used their influence and energy to create organizations celebrating and protecting the city’s growing Asian American and Pacific Islander community.

Tauer was an insistent voice for the Aurora Public Schools district and teachers everywhere. He was a social studies teacher himself, his “day job” for more than 30 years. He was just as supportive of vets and ensuring they received the honor and benefits they deserved. He, too, was an Air Force vet.

Paul was in front of and behind every issue that affected the city: rebuilding Colfax, creating a new city hall, refusing to allow state and Denver transportation planners to cheat Aurora out of its fair share.

The Tauers stood behind a bevy of causes, like providing mental health services, a history museum, cultural centers, such as The Fox Arts Center.

Cleland said Paul helped create a unified city council, sometimes pushing against them, but always including them. He was willing to hear out an argument and give one back.

Paul could be curt, Ruddick said. “But he was never mean spirited. He would respect you if you had a different opinion, as long as you weren’t anti-Aurora.”

I’ve never met anyone who knew Paul who disagreed that, probably more than anyone in local government, the city Aurora has become, in a very large part, is  because of his persistence, his insistence and his longevity.

Patten said she saw the historical nature of Tauer’s tenure, too.  

“I bought him a leather covered notebook one year, I think it was for Christmas and I gave it to him,” Patten said. “I told him he should make notes about what he’s done and what it was he was doing.

“Not a memoir,” Patten said, but notes to others about what he was thinking while moving the city forward, possibly to someone in the future trying to piece together how Aurora became what it would someday become.

“He was pretty stunned,” Patten said. For all that Paul did and for all the influence he wielded to get things done, it was never with a legacy in mind nor with any sense of conceit.

“He saw an issue, and he wanted to get the job done,” Patten said. “He was very much an in-the-moment kind of man.”

​​Follow @EditorDavePerry on Twitter and Facebook or reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected]

 

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Joe Felice
Joe Felice
1 month ago

Back in those days, political affiliation was just a letter after one’s name. Republicans often acted like Democrats and vice-versa.

Paul was a good man and I liked him, but I always felt his ego. And Ed’s was even bigger. Whenever I drive-by the city municipal building, in all its overbuilt magnificence, I say “There’s the monument to the Tauers.” There was a lot of excess and waste at times. But otherwise, he was a tireless advocate for the City.

Den Voran
1 month ago
Reply to  Joe Felice

Aurora is America’s 50th largest city and home to nearly 400,000 people. That’s more than New Orleans, Orlando, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, or Buffalo. These cities have city halls that are 10 or more stories tall – Buffalo’s even has 32 floors! Aurora’s Municipal Building, with only five stories, is decidedly modest in comparison.

Jeff Schmitt
Jeff Schmitt
1 month ago

I worked in Neighborhood Planning from ’90 to ’99, closely with the Tauer’s and Highland Park East; it was an honor that I reflect on still 30 years later. He was truthful, passionate, and most importantly supported the City and the causes he believed in like schools, church, neighborhoods and the underprivileged. I think he understood Aurora to be like the people of Aurora; needed some help, a hand up, some assistance, maybe someone to stand up for us when times got tough — so he took that upon himself. Those traits are good to honor.

Frank2525
Frank2525
1 month ago

This was a notice in Sentinel that I have not hanled well. When I returned to Area in Feb 1977, retired from 26 years Air Force Service, I did not prefer Paul. (Reason, he was so much like my father,who died in 1997, without use of legs, caused by health, and 3 comas, doctors pulled him back from. ——-Wife and I walked Canal in Aurora, met PAUL AND KATE. In friendly conversation, I saw same kindness, gruffness, my father projected. PAUL was quite interested in my 26 years, and what I could tell him about my career. (All was classified-sensive, until it was posted on net, AF History, with names not listed. We became quite close and stayed in touch all through these past years, with Kate Tauer, Jim Dutton (now deceased) and others who formed FIRST voluntary advisory board for Fitzsimons Army Hospital, and Col.Rio Lucas (deceased) , Marvin Meyers all working in Colorado UVC (Military) for the State. Col. Rio Lucas took information to Washington, through NAUS (now split), and to Legislators in their offices, and in testimony, to get the Federal funding, and authority, to build Federal VAMC on Army Medical Hospital Land, after Army closed in 1997. We saw that when Lowry AFB closed in 1965.
———As I say, Paul and Kate, and Ed became very close to Wife and me, and our family here. And we fully appreciate what Ruddick has said. I wanted so write long ago. I once mentioned to Paul, when walking: “Paul, when you held counci meetings, did you ever take a gun, as a prior council president did”? Slight moment, and he said with laugh from Kate “No, but it sure would have helped sometimes”.
——–This is long, but I feel I lost another family member, as My brother, sister, and brother-in-law all died during this Pandemic, and not getting regular medical care when needed , and as needed. All 3 in 80s, and strong except for last part of life. At 93, I have to wonder, of God’s for me
?