Al Gardner, an IT professional who has served on various Denver boards and commissions, has filed paperwork to run for mayor of Denver.
Gardner is vice president of information technology at Salud Family Health, but his entrance to Denver politics came through board and commission appointments. He has served on the Denver Civil Service Commission, the Denver African American Commission, and the Citizen Oversight Board, among others.
“So I’ve been busy the past almost 10 years working to make those changes and improvements,” Gardner said. “And it’s given me the opportunity to work with citizens, with safety, with the administration, city council, the mayor’s office, and really get to understand the inner workings. And I have the passion for it, and I think that’s going to set me apart.”
He said the top issues facing the city are affordable housing, safety, and homelessness.
Gardner believes the city has good affordable housing programs, but “one thing for me is trying to make those programs more notable, more accessible, and really kind of expanding it” to serve more people.
Gardner, having been involved in public safety focused boards and commissions in Denver, said he knows those issues well. One problem has been turnover and vacancies in police and sheriff positions, and he would like to see recruiting efforts improved to attract a wider net of applicants for those jobs.
“I think Denver is going in the right direction from a public safety standpoint, and I think we need to keep that, keep that momentum,” Gardner said.
On homelessness, Gardner emphasized that there is no one answer, but he wants to do things like “increasing wraparound services to the homeless, continuing to partner with those community partners that are willing to broaden the service offerings, and seeing where the city can really plug in to make a difference without sacrifice and safety.”
Gardner was IT director for Denver Rescue Mission from 2007 to 2014.
Last month, Denverite reported that Denver Rescue Mission banned “acting on same sex attraction” and “rejection of one’s biological sex” in an employee handbook. The mission has a city contract worth $8.7 million for homeless services. Within days, the Denver Rescue Mission said it would remove the language.
“I definitely don’t agree with that,” Gardner said. “And I definitely don’t believe that’s something that Denver Rescue Mission should espouse and I believe will espouse. I believe that they responded to that and reneged that or reversed that, and I think that’s the appropriate action.”
With Gardner entering the race, there are now 23 candidates vying to become mayor of Denver. There are some big names with large donor lists that have a three-month head start on Gardner. He said he will accept Fair Election Fund, taxpayer-matched contributions, and he lamented the role of money in elections.
“I think that’s part of the problem of the political process right now, is that money plays such a big role,” Gardner said. “But I do have the background, and I do have the folks who are willing to invest in me, and that’s what I’m gonna focus on, not necessarily getting out the largest message. I may not reach everyone, but the right people will hear it, and I’m confident that my voice will be added to the debate.”