Guy Padgett wants to get back into local government. The District 7 City Council seat might be his way

Currently, six people are running for the southwest Denver spot. It’s the most candidates for any district so far in this election. .
6 min. read
District 7 candidate Guy Padgett stands in the heart of South Broadway’s retail district. Feb. 7, 2023.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

Guy Padgett isn't a stranger to being a city council representative. He's been out of the game since 2009 but he's ready to step back into public office with his run for the highly coveted District 7 City Council seat.

"I have a long history of being involved in public life," Padgett said. "It's been a part of my life, giving back to the community that you care about.

"We care about this city very much and I think we're at a real turning point right now. We're at a point where we can continue to let some problems that have been growing become real detriments to our city or we can take some positive action to turn things around."

Before moving to Denver in 2009, Padgett lived in Casper, Wyoming, where he served on the City Council from 2003 to 2009. He was the state's first openly gay elected official. During this time, he was elected mayor by his peers and served in that position from 2005 to 2006. Casper's city government runs on a city-manager system as opposed to Denver's mayor-council.

District 7 candidate Guy Padgett stands in the heart of South Broadway's retail district. Feb. 7, 2023.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

One of Padgett's major initiatives during his time on the Casper council was the creation of a fixed-route bus system. He said public transit was a major issue in Casper and he noted its a major issue in Denver as well.

The main goal, Padgett said, is getting more cars off the street for environmental, health and financial reasons.

Padgett said the city needs to focus on multimodal transportation, meaning better bike and pedestrian infrastructure. He also said the city could benefit from more rapid bus lanes and perhaps creating a transit system that's separate from RTD. He thinks current routes in RTD were designed to move people from the suburbs to downtown areas and vice versa, which leaves gaps in accessibility and frequency.

"We need to be bold and re envision how we think of public transit in Denver," Padgett said. "The frequency is not frequent enough for it to be an effective system to move people around the city.

"We need to talk about crosstown transit. We need to talk about whether or not our public transit system is effective in getting people to the doctor or the store... I don't think it has been serving us well in this way. I think Denver needs to ask itself whether or not it needs to talk about its own transit outside of RTD to supplement and meet the needs of Denverites."

District 7 candidate Guy Padgett stands in the heart of South Broadway's retail district. Feb. 7, 2023.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

While his main goal in Casper was creating a better transit system, in Denver his priority will be on public safety.

For Padgett, public safety is an umbrella term that focuses on crime, affordable housing and homelessness.

Padgett said the city is seeing an uptick in crime and to mediate that issue, the city should focus on bolstering the police force, and that police need to be "full staffed, fully trained and fully transparent." He added that the Office of the Independent Monitor also needs to be well-funded.

"It has the potential to be a great force of connecting the people of Denver to the officers that serve Denver," Padgett said.

The city's method of helping the unhoused also needs to be fixed

Firstly, Padgett said the city needs to provide bathroom access for those who are unhoused. But mainly, the city should decrease its use of traditional shelters and focus on using spaces such as motels for transitional housing. Padgett said the motels provide a safer space for those who are unhoused and allows them to bring family members and pets.

But overall, Padgett said, the city shouldn't be solely focused on a housing-first methodology. It should be two-fold housing and services.

"I don't think Denver has succeeded in a housing-first approach, but if we limit our vision to that, we've lost out on a whole array of solutions that have the potential to really help people," Padgett said. "We're past the point where a simple housing-first approach is effective... We need access to services, access to jobs and access to permanent housing. All of those things need to come together."

Padgett also said that the city needs to focus on affordable housing for everyone but especially those in the 60% to 80% area median income. For a single person, that's about a $44,000 to $55,950 salary range.

District 7 candidate Guy Padgett stands in the heart of South Broadway's retail district. Feb. 7, 2023.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

"These are some of the basic services a city needs to provide its citizens and a city that can't provide these services is a city government that's lost its way," Padgett said.

Besides transportation and public safety, Padgett said another focus of his is small businesses. He said the city should make it simple for small businesses to thrive and that looks like streamlining permitting needs, making sure turning an area into a business improvement district is simplified and possibly holding job fairs specifically for local businesses.

"The character of Denver we all love so much comes from our local businesses and our local entrepreneurs. We need to find ways to encourage them," Padgett said.

District 7 is an open race since incumbent councilmember Jolon Clark is not seeking re-election

Currently, five people are running for the southwest Denver spot, including Padgett, Adam Estroff and Flor Alvidrez. It's the most candidates for any district so far in this election cycle. Seats in District 4 and 8 are also up for grabs but, so far, only two candidates are vying for District 4 and three for District 8.

Padgett said the uptick in candidates for District 7 speaks to the diversity and passion of area. He said all the neighborhoods are vibrant places and it shows in the slew of candidates. He added although he appreciates Clark's services to the district, he'd still run if Clark ran for reelection.

"Denver is a great city and I want to see it remain a great city and I want to see it build a foundation that ensures it's a great city for decades to come," Padgett said. "Denver itself is gone through a world of change since I've been coming down here and since we moved down here. I think that we are kind of in the middle of an important junction. I think it's easy to sit on the sidelines and critique city government or to critique the way your city is growing. I think if you truly feel strongly about it, you need to get involved."

Correction: This story has been updated to reflect that District 8 Councilmember Chris Herndon has reached his term limit.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with the finalized candidate list that will appear on the 2023 municipal election ballot.

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