In 2011, former Lakewood Mayor Bob Murphy was sitting in a ball room in Kansas City hoping to bring home the All-America City Award — an award that celebrates and recognizes efforts to bring …
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Steve Burkholder: 1999-2007
Bob Murphy: 2007-2015
Adam Paul: 2015-present
In 2011, former Lakewood Mayor Bob Murphy was sitting in a ball room in Kansas City hoping to bring home the All-America City Award — an award that celebrates and recognizes efforts to bring together residents, local government, businesses and nonprofits to solve local issues. Pressure to bring home the award was pressing, because the city put a great amount of effort into winning. Finally, he learned Lakewood had won, and pressure turned to relief. It was time to celebrate.
“We were staying at the Hyatt in downtown Kansas City, and they had a bar at the top floor. The bar had a piano, and the bar manager said they were closed,” said Murphy. “We were like, no you’re not. We kept that bar open for a long time.”
Stories like that were shared at a panel at Holy Shepherd Church on March 21 in honor of Lakewood’s 50th anniversary. Murphy, former Lakewood Mayor Steve Burkholder and current Lakewood Mayor Adam Paul reflected on their challenges, accomplishments and time serving the city.
Burkholder, who served as mayor from 1999 to 2007, discussed how Lakewood was going through a “huge era of change” when he first stepped foot into office. It was the turn of the century, and Lakewood was dealing with infrastructure challenges as well as a demographic change. Shopping areas were dead or dying, and the city’s population was aging. During Burkholder’s time in office, he helped the Belmar area transform from the former deteriorated Villa Italia Mall.
“Cities never stay the same. They either get better, or worse,” said Burkholder. “We wanted to make sure we were getting better.”
Paul talked about how the recent TABOR limit vote will give the city meaningful dollars to invest in the community. He touched on growth in Lakewood and how that brings its own set of problems like affordability and how some residents feel a sense of being cramped.
“We’ve seen increased issues with homelessness in areas that we never saw before and amongst our most vulnerable, our children in the community with 3,000 kids in Jefferson County Public Schools identifying as homeless in some way, or another. So being tasked with some of those tougher issues that maybe more urbanized cities have faced in the past, we’re starting to see,” said Paul. “You want to be able to have an environment where everyone can live, work and play and for some, it is becoming harder and harder to find that opportunity.”
Paul described himself as a “rebellious youth” and talked about when he told the police one day he would be mayor, and they would be sorry, because they would all have to drive pintos. When he got elected, he received an anonymous phone call from a Lakewood officer who said they were proud of him and for him to not make them drive pintos.
“Some of us have the opportunity to cultivate the soil and get it ready. Others plant the seeds, others nurture those seeds, and others harvest those seeds,” said Burkholder. “It’s been that way, and not just with mayors, but with councils. It’s kind of the culture of our city, of councils and staff that we think long term. We want to do something that is right for the city.”
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