“I felt like I had found the place I wanted to be. Golden felt like home in a way that I had not experienced anywhere else,” says former Mayor Jacob Smith. “(Politics) felt like a good way to contribute to the community and civic life to help shape the community.”
Smith served as Mayor of Golden in 2008-12. When asked why he decided to run he says, “It felt to me like there was a real frustration with the sense that change was happening to us rather than the community itself deciding what we wanted change to look like.”
Decades ago, downtown Golden was struggling. Any growth in Golden was necessary to keep the town afloat. But then the town started to grow. An influx of new people came in and changes were happening quickly. City planning regulations became dated and needed to be revisited. “It’s like someone hit the after burners,” says Smith, “and we’re flying in some direction that we didn’t even control.”
“I only won the mayor’s race by 120 votes,” says Smith. “It was very much the tension between the people who had been here a long time, often multi-generational, and the many many people who had moved to Golden in the past five years (prior to 2008). There was a lot of push-back and competing visions for what the community should be like in the future.”
In addition to addressing the need for change in city planning, Smith spurred action in sustainability, transportation, walk-ability, bike-ability and housing affordability. “Now that we’ve got the ship moving and tourists are coming, how do we protect all of this over the long term?” asks Smith. “Now maybe we turn our attention to long-term quality of life. How do we sustain economic vitality over the long haul?”
“We created these working groups, these task forces,” says Smith. “The idea was to pull a bunch of expertise, knowledge, and different perspectives from across the community and put them in a room. Some of the people who were the most skeptical within the city organization, on the council, in the community, became supportive as they saw the depth of community support for these-kind of values and ideas.”
Today, Smith is Executive Director of Colorado Communities for Climate Action. He is still involved in Golden politics with his “Jacob’s Golden Update,” which chimes in on local elections, changes in town policies and environmental issues.
“I’m totally optimistic in general about people’s abilities to engage,” says Smith. “Your ability as an individual to shape how we tackle those problems I remain very optimistic about.”