When Kathy Turley looks back on her time on the Centennial City Council, the sometimes unclear question of the city’s identity stands out.
“In my eight years on council, I have been singing the same song: ‘We, the (city) staff and the elected officials, know who we are.’ The rest of the world doesn’t,” Turley wrote to the Centennial Citizen. “When you drive into Centennial, you don’t know it as opposed to when you drive into Lone Tree, you know!”
Turley represented the far west part of Centennial from 2014 to early January of this year. She served council District 1, the region encompassing most areas between South Broadway and Colorado Boulevard.
She also has served as mayor pro tem, a position that carries out the duties of the mayor temporarily when the mayor is absent. Centennial City Council consists of nine elected representatives, including the mayor.
Here are Turley’s reflections about her time on city council. Responses were lightly edited for clarity.
Once a city opponent
Originally, 20 years ago, I was one of the 23% who voted against the creation of the City of Centennial. I didn’t think the city founders were giving us all the information. We were never told what it would cost us to remain the same (as an unincorporated area governed by Arapahoe County) and not become a new city.
We voted! We lost! It’s the American way! I then decided I wanted to be involved in the beginnings of birthing the city and ran for office. Today, I am one of the most vocal outspoken supporters of the City of Centennial.
Part of Centennial history
My involvement with the city, before I became a councilmember, was the community electing me to serve on the Centennial Home Rule Charter initiative.
(In 2001, Centennial formed as a “statutory city,” generally governed by state laws. On June 10, 2008, the citizens of Centennial voted to approve a home rule charter — essentially a constitution for the city — making it possible for Centennial to have control over matters of local concern, including sales tax collection, according to the city’s website. Centennial’s citizens had elected 21 residents to serve on the Home Rule Charter Commission to draft a home rule charter in 120 days — Turley served as one of those commission members.)
Pride in the park
Some of my proudest accomplishments on city council have been the implementation of the Centennial Center Park — our “main street” — the passage of the Streets at SouthGlenn redevelopment, the city’s Community Grant Program and, most important to me, embellishing and advancing our brand and identity out in the community.
(The city’s Community Grant Program — intended to improve community engagement and neighborhood identity, according to the city website — provides funding for large-scale improvements to neighborhoods, such as neighborhood signage, fencing and community gardens. The program also provides “neighborhood engagement grants” — small amounts of funding to residents and community organizations in Centennial to support events such as neighborhood block parties, movie nights and other social gatherings.)
A contentious debate
The most difficult issue while I was on city council was the arduous and time-consuming task to convince the Southglenn neighborhood that the proposed changes to The Streets at SouthGlenn were a good idea and that everyone would benefit from this redevelopment.
Fear of change and of the unknown created an uneasy and unhealthy atmosphere. Three years of meetings, many conversations and lots of “hand holding” became the real story. Partnerships, collaboration and patience resulted in a win-win success story!
Sense of self
Identity, identity, identity and signature are concepts the city needs to address. A “Welcome to …” placemaking monument at the north, south, east and west entrances to the city could be a start.
We are a city of neighborhoods, and our newly implemented Community Grant Program highlights and supports our dedication to the community. The identity journey will take a great deal of time, research and conversation amongst all the players. The city has a reputation of always including the community first, and I trust that they will go down this “identity path” together over the years.
My final thoughts to my constituents generate a sad and happy message. Thank you for the brief opportunity I have had to serve you, represent you and to get to know you. I only hope I have met your expectations. It has been one of the most fulfilling and challenging experiences in my life. I am grateful and will relish all the wonderful memories for years to come.