By Annette Walker
If elected mayor of Aurora in November, Ryan Frazier will be the youngest mayor ever elected by the city. In 2003 at age 26, he became the youngest person ever elected to the Aurora City Council. If elected in November, he will also became the city’s first African-American mayor.
There are six mayoral candidates and, in a recent poll Frazier is leading. He is an at-large city council member and represents the entire city. He is a member of the Republican Party.
Currently Frazier is the vice-chairman of Aurora’s Public and Intergovernmental Relations Committee and a member of the Management and Finance Committee. He also serves on several city and Governor-appointed boards and advocacy groups, including the drought advisory group.
“I am proud to be a native of Michael Jordan’s hometown: Wilmington, North Carolina,” he said. After high school, he served five years in the U.S. Navy and came to Denver with his wife, Kathy during that time. He served as a senior operations controller for the National Security Agency.
Since leaving the Navy, he has worked at Raytheon and two telecommunications companies. Currently, he is president and CEO of the Western States Forum, a nonprofit public policy organization. Last year he lost his bid for the Congressional District 7 seat held by incumbent Representative Ed Perlmutter. Frazier, however, was endorsed by some key civic and private groups.
With a keen interest in education, in 2006, he co-founded the Highpoint Academy, a preschool through 8th grade Aurora public charter school where his three children are enrolled.
A few years ago he traveled to Ghana in West Africa. “That trip had a profound impact upon me,” he said. “I was deeply affected by viewing the slave castles where our ancestors were kept before the TransAtlantic voyage.”
Frazier received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Columbia College and a Master’s degree from Regis University. He also completed the senior executive program at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.
I talked to Frazier in early September and he outlined the following priorities that he will pursue if elected mayor: Regional economic leadership which includes job creation; Education; and Public Safety. He also discussed the Stock Show debate.
Regional Economic Leadership
“I want to work towards defining Aurora’s identity. The city is no longer a ‘bedroom community’ attached to Denver, and it is growing. Aurora is now a big player in Colorado. Regional economic leadership involves good jobs and good industry that will drive the economy in Colorado and especially the metropolitan area.
I have my eyes on what I call the Opportunity Triangle. It starts with DIA (Denver International Airport). DIA is not in Aurora; it’s in Denver. However, Aurora has more land around it and is right next to it. I want to support the growth of business investment to support the airport. It will be in Aurora and we can create jobs around that industry.
“Moving southwest of DIA, you hit Fitzsimmons which is in Aurora. It has undergone an amazing redevelopment from a former Army medical base into a life science city. There we’ve developed Bioscience Park, and we have Children’s Hospital, University Hospital, and the Veterans Administration Hospital.
“We have 15,000 people working in the Fitzsimmons complex today. In the next decade we have plans to get that up to 30,000 people. Plus the associated development around Fitzsimmons and the development of Colfax supports the creation of additional well-paying jobs for our citizens.
“Next you just head east over to Buckley Air Force Base. We have 12,000 people working at Buckley, a lot of military and Department of Defense individuals. In addition, we have a big aerospace, high-tech industry footprint in Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, Northrop-Grumman that support the mission at Buckley Air Force Base.
“So this is the opportunity ‘triangle’, what I call these job centers which I believe the future will hold for Aurora in a way in which we can really create an identity for Aurora as a regional economic leader.
“That is what I’d like to do and focus upon. As mayor I’d like to attract jobs to our city by leveraging those three job centers.
“And what does this mean? More jobs. Some of these businesses might be able to provide summer jobs for our youth. Right now unemployment among youth is too high.
“One area that I will look at if elected mayor is the issue of workplace diversity. Recruitment is key, and I will sit down with city officials and we will come up with a workable plan.”
“In order to have a vibrant community, we must have good schools. And I believe that good schools nor only require good teachers, but also good parents are needed to make good students.
“If I’m fortunate to be elected in November, I want to establish a stronger partnership between the mayor’s office and our school districts to ensure that they not only have the resources they need to educate our kids for jobs in the 21st century, but that we are working for the reforms that need to happen in our school system. The partnership between the Aurora’s Mayor’s office and the school districts is not as strong as it can be, and that is one of the things that I hope to work on as mayor.
“Regarding the role of parents, it’s not enough to say that the teachers aren’t doing a good enough job or the schools aren’t doing a good enough job or the schools are not giving a good enough education. My mom raised me with the idea that education starts at home. We need
parents to be involved with their children’s education. Teachers need reinforcement from the students’ homes. Otherwise, it makes it difficult to get the students where they need to be.
“As mayor, what I would like to do is to carry that message out into communities. It’s basically talking in coffee shops and wherever I’m visiting with people and whatever microphone I have as mayor about the need for parental involvement in children’s education.”
“This is a key issue for me. Aurora is actually a safe city. Every year for the past eight years for a city of its size i.e. 250,000 to 500,000, Aurora has been ranked in the top 15 safest cities in this country. But we do have challenges as any city of 325,000 and growing will. Northwest Aurora is a section where we have to address gun violence. There are higher gun incidents taking place there.
“I have introduced a couple of initiatives into the Aurora City Council. One is the acquisition of a new piece of technology called a ‘Shot Spitter’ which distinguishes between a firecracker and a gunshot being fired. It’s a listening device and is able to pinpoint within a few feet where the shot came from. It automatically sends that information to law enforcement, thereby making it possible to save a life and perhaps apprehend the perpetrator.
“There is a community component to this proposal. It involves educating and empowering people and providing mentoring services for youth to help steer them away from involvement with gangs and guns.
The Stock Show
“There is a lot of ‘us and them’ coming from Denver around this issue. Aurora and Denver need to get past this mindset and we have both been working towards this. The level of regional cooperation has been good and I would like to see that continue. If I’m elected, I look forward to working with Michael Hancock and other mayors to further regional cooperation.
“The Stock Show represents an opportunity for us to work together to find a way to allow this annual activity to have better facilities. Aurora happens to have the land, nearly 160 square miles. In terms of land mass and population, Aurora is larger than Buffalo (New York), Pittsburgh and Newark, New Jersey. However, one half of Aurora is undeveloped. We have 65 to 75 square miles of undeveloped land.
“So it’s natural for those who are looking to relocate to new areas to look at Aurora. The Stock Show officials are looking at the land issue and the Gaylord Hotel that’s coming. The Gaylord will be a $824 million project and the theme is ‘Authentic Western’. So it makes sense for the Stock Show and the Gaylord Hotel to be co-located.
“Denver and Aurora officials will have to sit down and come up with a win-win solution for both.”
Over the past 25 years Aurora’s population has doubled. In 1980 there were 158.000 residents. Today there are 325,000. Whereas Denver is physically surrounded by various municipalities and most of its land is already developed, Aurora has vast tracks of undeveloped land.
Aurora and Denver have different forms of government. Aurora operates under a council/manager structure, in which the City Manager runs the day-to-day operations with guidance from the City Council. The mayor heads the Council, which consists of ten members.
Aurora spans Adams, Douglas and Jefferson counties. There are two school districts within Aurora: the Cherry Creek Schools and the Aurora Public Schools. Neither the Denver nor the Aurora Mayor has direct control over the school districts; rather, the local school boards are invested with authority over the institutions of learning.