‘Time for some new blood’ — Councilwoman Barb Cleland not running for re-election after 28-year tenure

"I think it’s time for some new blood,” At-large City Council Member Barb Cleland said.

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Councilwoman Barb Cleland

AURORA | After nearly three decades on the Aurora City Council dais, At-large Councilwoman Barb Cleland will not run for reelection this fall, she announced in a Facebook post June 7.

The decision marks the end of a 28-year career in Aurora politics, a tenure than began with a successful bid to represent Aurora’s Ward IV in 1983. At that time, Aurora only had four wards in the city, Cleland said. Aurora changed to a six-ward system in 1985 and Cleland successfully ran to represent the city’s south-central Ward V. She would go on to represent that jurisdiction until 2003.

Cleland said her announcement came after several weeks of self-reflection, which yielded the conclusion she would like to spend more time with her five grandchildren instead of spending another four years responding to constituents and haggling over development deals.

“It’s time,” she said. “I want to spend time with my family and my grand babies because, you know, you only go around once.”

Cleland’s choice not to run for a third consecutive term as one of the city’s four at-large representatives came after a recent “bucket list” trip to Israel, she said.

“When I originally pulled the packet (from the City Clerk), I was undecided,” Cleland said. “Then I went to Israel, and while in Israel — on a trip I paid for by myself, totally by myself, contrary to what some people might think — I just had some reflection, and I decided that I’m not going to do this.”

She added she believes it’s time to get some new name plates on the council dais.

“I think it’s time for some new blood,” she said.

Cleland said she’s not going to endorse another candidate in the current at-large race. There are 11 candidates who have expressed their intent to run for one of two available at-large seats in this fall’s election, according to a list of candidates compiled June 5 by Assistant City Manager Janice Napper.

Currently in her second term as an at-large council member, Cleland was first elected to that post in 2009 after taking a six-year break from public office.

Over the course of her political career, she served under four different mayors and with a trio of city attorneys.

And while Cleland said she’s done running for political office, she will continue serving on the board for the Aurora Housing Authority and the Colorado State Housing Board. She will also continue working in her position as the legislative and community relations director at Aurora Mental Health.

Reflecting on her greatest accomplishments, Cleland said helping to broker the deal to move the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center from Denver to Fitzsimons bubbles to the top.

“We kind of dreamed about what it would be when it was happening, but I think it’s gone beyond what we even thought,” she said. “I mean, you look at Children’s (Hospital Colorado), The VA (hospital), those are things we never thought could happen.”

Looking forward, Cleland said the proposed Aurora Highlands development, which could bring more than 50,000 new residents to the eastern portion of the city, could be a boon for Aurora.

“Down the road, that could be a huge benefit for the city of Aurora,” she said.

Here’s the full text of her Facebook post:

Hello Friends and Colleagues. After a great deal of consideration and much counsel from family and loved ones, I have decided I will not be a candidate for re-election for Aurora City Council this fall.

I’m grateful to have contributed to so many significant accomplishments for Aurora in 28 years of service – relocating University of Colorado Health Sciences Center to Fitzsimons, creating both teen and wellness courts, and helping negotiate not one, but two IGA’s for Denver International Airport. I’m just as proud of some of the more mundane aspects to serving, most of which were not as high profile but still impactful for so many – stop signs, median improvements and other decisions that affected our quality of life.

Serving on Aurora City Council has been the highlight of my professional career. Looking back over nearly three decades on City Council, I’m especially grateful that significant accomplishments and great victories far outweighed instances of policy disagreement. Since my first day in office in 1983, I have had the pleasure to serve with over 40 Council members, three Mayors and hundreds of loyal and hard-working City staffers.

When I joined City Council in 1983 as a 36-year old mother of two, I could never have imagined what Aurora has become today. I’m honored to have had a leadership role in its evolution into an All-American City. We’ve accomplished a great deal together and I’m grateful for your friendship and camaraderie through it all.

I’m not sure what’s next for me, but you can be certain I won’t disappear into thin air. There are many issues near and dear to my heart to which I will continue to contribute my expertise and passion to further improve our great City and better serve its citizens. At any rate, I’m excited to see how a new generation of leadership on Council can make us an even greater City.

To everyone reading this post, please accept my sincere appreciation for helping me along in my tenure on Council. You have blessed me with fond memories, lasting relationships, and great confidence to lead Aurora.

28 years has passed in the blink of an eye. I am honored, humbled and proud. On to new adventures!