Happy 50th, Lakewood

The city officially turned 50 last week

Posted 7/1/19

It's been 50 years since former Lakewood Mayor James Jeff “Jim” Richey, then chairman of the Citizens for Incorporation, famously drew boundaries for Lakewood on a pingpong table in his basement. …

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Happy 50th, Lakewood

The city officially turned 50 last week

Posted

It's been 50 years since former Lakewood Mayor James Jeff “Jim” Richey, then chairman of the Citizens for Incorporation, famously drew boundaries for Lakewood on a pingpong table in his basement.

Amid fears of annexation to Denver and a shortage of law enforcement resources, residents near Alameda, Bear Creek, Applewood, Green Mountain and other areas voted by more than a two-to-one margin to create a new city. Jefferson City, soon renamed Lakewood, was born in June of 1969.

Lakewood City Council issued a proclamation recognizing the city's 50th anniversary at a City Council meeting on June 24. The meeting was packed with government officials including City Councilmembers Diana Wilson, Sue King and Tom Quinn and former Lakewood Mayors Bob Murphy, Linda Morton and Steve Burkholder.

“It's that sense of community that I think we continue to have, and I think it's that partnership between the elected officials and citizens and the business community. Let's not forget that,” said Burkholder, who served as mayor from 1999 to 2007.

Lakewood was originally known for its farms and ranchland, but today, it has turned into the fifth largest city in Colorado with more than 150,000 residents. It has long served an important role in the federal government through the Federal Center.

“Through the years, people have done a lot of work, and I recognize that every time I turn around the corner, or head down the street. It's hard work, but (being mayor) is one of the most worthwhile things I have ever done,” said Morton, who served as Lakewood Mayor from 1991 to 1999.

Tales of incorporation

In 1966, the Villa Italia Shopping Center was built where Belmar now rests. In and around the 800,000 square-foot shopping mall sat Roman statues.

“After Villa Italia was opened, incorporation was on the front burner,” said Jean Saum who was a reporter for what is now the Lakewood Sentinel from 1966 to 1978. She has lived in Lakewood since 1958.

Lakewood was growing before it officially became a city, and with that growth included a spike in crime. Residents also wanted their own schools, because children were forced to take long school bus rides to Denver schools.

“No one wanted to live in a big city. They wanted to live in a community,” said Saum.

Neighborhoods each had their own characteristics and identity. Some areas were more focused on farming while others were home to white collar workers.

Despite their differences, residents voted 8,478 to 3,371 to come together as a city. Champagne was popped at what was the Jefferson City Headquarters at W. 14th Ave. and Wadsworth Blvd. on the night of the vote — June 24, 1969.

Saum said those who opposed the new city took their views toward the writing of the first city charter. She says the incorporation and writing of the city charter showed the distinct philosophies of the officials. Some wanted a high number of rules to governing the city, because they expected the worse would happen. Others wanted to create basic government rules to create a nice, smooth running city.

“It was an inspiring experience to see these people with all the challenges of money, running government, having the first council and everybody having their own agenda. It was inspiring to see how they could work together to make the city that we are all really proud of now,” said Saum.

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