When Denver Mayor Michael Hancock met with the City Council Tuesday for their first joint meeting today, he wasn’t the only new face in the room.
SIX new councilmen and women will also be making their debut as the Mile High City’s newest legislators and begin the task of directing the city into the next era, navigating economic, social and civic obstacles.
One of those new council members, Mary Beth Susman (District 5), may be exceptionally well suited for the challenge, having
Susman’s experience with economic and civic planning would seem to jibe well with Hancock’s list of priorities, outlined in his 100 Days Plan. Indeed, she is eager to begin the job of not only representing her district but also helping shape Denver’s future as well.
“I am very excited to be joining some very talented and committed people on City Council,” Susman said recently. “We all share deep concern and love for Denver and are committed to solving the very difficult issues that lie before us. Denver is well positioned to take advantage of our role as a global hub, an economic innovator and a leader in supporting happy and healthy lifestyles.”
Susman’s resume makes her seem perfectly suited for serving in the Council at this particular time, a period when Denver not only faces a severe budget crises but also looks to rebrand itself as a technology business hub. Hancock has made no secret of his desire to promote Denver as a high-tech headquarters and increase high-tech education, something his predecessor, current Gov. John Hickenlooper, also promoted.
As the former vice president of the Colorado Community College System, president of Colorado Community College Online, the creator of her own online education and business company, as well as the director of Corporate Development and Education Services with Rocky Mountain PBS, Susman appears more than able to provide Hancock with crucial input on the type of high-tech educational system he envisions.
In addition, Susman is chairman of the Lowery Economic Adjustment Committee, a redevelopment project that is widely considered a model across the country, and a member of the Denver Planning Board which worked on the 16th Street Mall and the Stapleton redevelopment project.
“I am prepared to stand with my council colleagues to keep our eyes fixed on the future to continue to shape Denver into a city that nurtures and attracts the people and businesses that can revitalize and energize our evolving lifestyles and economy,” Susman said.
But first things first: Susman points to the $100 million budget shortfall facing Denver as the more pressing need of the city.
“Our first priority will be working with the Mayor’s office to see how we can rein in our budget shortfall,” Susman explained, “while creating an environment in Denver that is supportive of the start-ups and small businesses that will help us thrive in this evolving 21st Century economy.”
While securing the future of Denver as a whole is part of her agenda, Susman has specific projects for her District 5 (a seat she won in a runoff election over Steve Saunders), projects that include site developments, new parks and the continued rehabilitation of district facilities.
“Within District 5 we have a number of pressing needs associated with outdated infrastructure,” Susman explained. “Many residents have experienced devastating flooding during our recent spate of historic thunderstorms. There are also a number of spots throughout the district that see recurring traffic issues.”
Susman said that while long-term solutions to the District’s problems are in the planning stages, immediate remedies to those problems are also being sought.
Other District 5 projects include “more developed” of a site plan for the area at 8th and Colorado Boulevard that will be reviewed by area residents, the city planning department and other concerned agencies, as well as a new park and urban garden at 13th and Xenia Street near Westerly Creek which, according to Susman, will greatly enhance the area.
“I am also eager to continue working with neighbors in the district to address the future of East Colfax, the Buckley Annex and Lowry Vista,” Susman added.
The new District 5 council representative is high on Denver’s ability to overcome the current obstacles and emerge from its financial and civic problems with a brighter outlook.
“I see a bright future for Denver,” Susman said, “and know that we have the capability, the resources, and the commitment to see our way through these budget and infrastructure concerns and to take our place alongside the best cities in the world.”