Our Man On Council

Our Man On Council

Christopher Herndon To Represent All of Park Hill

By Cara DeGette, GPHN Editor

Across Denver, 50 candidates are vying for seats in the May 5 election, including for mayor, city council, auditor and city clerk. To represent Park Hill, however, there is only one council candidate in the District 8 race – incumbent Christopher Herndon. And, for the first time in anyone’s memory, Park Hill will be whole, meaning that just one person will represent the entire neighborhood on the Denver City Council.

Herndon currently represents a northeast portion of Park Hill, with Mary Beth Susman and Albus Brooks representing the southern and western portions. But several years ago the city adopted a new district map, which places Park Hill entirely within District 8, along with Stapleton and a portion of Montbello.

Herndon, a West Point graduate, is originally from Kansas City, Missouri, and spent nearly seven years in the United States Army. He moved to Denver in 2005, and was a manager at the Englewood Wal-Mart before he was first elected in 2011. Now finishing his first term on council, Herndon is currently council president. He recently sat down for a Greater Park Hill News interview to share his plans and goals.

Greater Park Hill News: You are running unopposed for a second term. You are president of the City Council. You and your wife (Genia Herndon, an assistant vice chancellor at the University of Colorado Denver) are expecting your first baby. And you were both just honored by the Denver Business Journal as among 40 of Denver’s leaders under age 40. You must be feeling pretty good…

Chris Herndon: Yes, we welcome our baby boy CJ in May. Things are great, we are really excited and thankful. Hard work really pays off, and the team and I are excited by all the possibilities.

GPHN: What do you consider your biggest accomplishment since being elected to the City Council?

Herndon: I remember when I first got elected I was asked what big things I intended to accomplish, and my response was, I want to do a bunch of little things. At the end of the day those little things add up. We’ve expanded composting routes in the city, and have improved safety through traffic measures. We’ve installed bike lanes on 26th Avenue from Holly to Colorado. We’ve adopted the new redistricting. I’m proud of what we’ve done.

GPHN: What has been your biggest frustration?

Herndon: I don’t have a big frustration, but sometimes I would like things to move forward faster. I also know that deliberation is wise.

GPHN: New district boundaries makes Park Hill whole for the first time in anyone’s memory. That means that Park Hill will be represented by one – not three – councilmembers. Does that mean a unified Park Hill will have more clout at city hall, or less because only one representative is considering our best interests? How do you plan to become a triple powerhouse?

Herndon: Well Park Hill certainly has a voice of our own, but we also have two at-large council members (who represent all of Denver). I have the best district because of the rich history of Park Hill. I’m not sure about being a triple powerhouse, but I will continue to be hardworking. I’ve worked with all of the neighborhood groups – Greater Park Hill Community, Northeast Park Hill, City Park Friends and Neighbors – and they know who Chris Herndon is. It’s going to be great having more compact districts, and I am excited to focus on Park Hill.

GPHN: You will not just represent Park Hill, but all of Stapleton and a small portion of Montbello. You live in Stapleton. So how will you balance the needs of the three distinctly separate neighborhoods?

Herndon: The same way I’ve done it for the last four years. It’s about understanding the district. Whether it be safety issues, infrastructure, following the master plan, composting services — there are subtle differences from neighborhood to neighborhood.

GPHN: New construction and traffic have overwhelmed parts of Denver. In Park Hill alone traffic has spiked as much as 40 percent and more in some parts of the neighborhood. What are your ideas for addressing these traffic problems?

Herndon: If I had to sum up in a word: infrastructure. There is the challenge of improving Quebec Street. We’ve also talked about adding more bike lanes (citywide) and alternative forms of moving people around – and not just in cars.

GPHN: You have raised more than $75,000 so far for your campaign, and don’t have an opponent. Little of that money has come from Park Hill, but much of it from developers and developer interests. You have said you support thoughtful development. Has Denver been as thoughtful in its development of projects within neighborhoods? How can it improve?

Herndon: I always think we can do better. I would say I have received money from people in the district and throughout the city. When it comes to development, it’s good to partner with developers for infrastructure, and determining what kinds of infrastructure we can put in place. Overall in the city we have a good process for planning and approving. Can we do better? Yes.

GPHN: There has also been a recent spike in gang activity in Park Hill, including shootings that have become routine. What have you been doing to address this?

Herndon: That is going to be a solution that needs to go beyond the city council. I am a huge fan of (District 2 police commander) Mike Calo and his command. The police and city must partner with community leaders – the solution is not just going to come from the government. One way we can help is through jobs and putting people to work and building relationships with people.

GPHN: The police department’s recent actions have resulted in huge monetary awards for damages, and charges of excessive force. The January Park Hill shooting of Jessica Hernandez is still resonating. Do you support the use of body cameras and more stringent disciplinary actions against police officers who are engaging in excessive force? What reforms do you support?

Herndon: I fully support the use of body cameras. We have budgeted a little over $1 million to the Denver Police Department for body cameras, and I support that expansion. I am a huge fan of our men and women in uniform. I hear all the time about great things our men and women are doing. For those who do wrong, those who tarnish the badge, they should be held accountable.

GPHN: What is your main goal in this next term?

Herndon: I have three medium-sized goals. One is infrastructure. How are we moving people? I was a huge fan of the bike lane on 26th Street. I support the rapid transit on Colfax and am excited about the east line. There are parts of Park Hill that don’t have sidewalks. We need to address that. We plan to create more bike lanes in District 8. Two: Safety. We need to make sure police officers have the tools to be successful. There’s also East Colfax. The challenges along East Colfax are very clear in regard to safety and quality of life. The Colfax Corridor has seen significant improvements through economic development in recent years and I want to continue that momentum. Finally, I want to work to ensure the expansion of the solid waste master plan. An efficient city has three buckets – trash, recycling and composting – and part of our plan to expand throughout the city.

Note: Councilman Herndon can be reached at Christopher.Herndon@denvergov.org
or 720-337-7711.