This week, sit in on my conversation with man-about-Westminster Bob Briggs, who moved to Westminster with his family in 1943, about 30 years after it was incorporated, and has called it home since. Judging by his long list of accomplishments, it’s easy to see that Westminster would not be the city it is today without the guidance and foresight of the determined former county commissioner and Westminster city councilman.
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Tell me a little about yourself: What do you do these days?Well, back in 2004 I stopped receiving money, stopped getting paid and started living off the federal insurance (Colorado PERA) stuff I paid into for years. When I served in the state House, I ended up with $50-a-month stipend from PERA and I bought some additional dollars, so now I get $300 a month. (Laughs)So what you’re saying is you’re retired?Correct.And for the record, are you from Westminster?No, I moved here when I was 6, in 1943. I was born in Greeley, I’m a third-generation Coloradan.And quite the Coloradan. I did my research and it appears you’re one of those lifelong politicians — city councilman, county commissioner, state representative, state agriculture commissioner. What has drawn you to public service over all those years?I was in 1964 and 1965 elected president of the Westminster Jaycees (Junior Chamber). It was a great community service organization. So I learned and I met a lot of people serving with Jaycees. And over the years I ended up doing a lot of things, running the Jaycee junior football program, and I was the chair of the Westminster District 50 City Boosters — that group developed a committee I was on that brought the Front Range Community College to Westminster.At the end of my chairmanship of that, we said we wanted a chamber of commerce made … So I wrote the bylaws, and that was how the (now Metro North Chamber of Commerce) was formed.But my first run for public office was in 1970, when I ran for Adams County commissioner, and lost. I decided I didn’t want to do that again, but I have a short memory. (Briggs would win a county commissioner seat in 1978, after being nominated by the Republican party.) I wound up winning by 200 votes. It was a landslide, for a Republican that is.The upshot of that is, my accomplishments as county commissioner, the biggest one was we closed down the Stapleton expansion onto Rocky Mountain Arsenal. And, with that, later came Denver International Airport.When I got defeated in 1982 for my re-election bid, by the same Ron Nichols and by a similar number of votes, I said I wouldn’t do that again. Then, in 1998 a group of people from the RTD board said, `You need to run (for the RTD board),’ so I decided to run. Again, I won by 200 votes, and again, over Ron Nichols. I ran against Ron three times total and won twice, so…My first RTD board meeting we approved … FasTracks, T-Rex and Union Station. I’m extremely proud of that. At the end of that term, during my tenure on RTD board, I was appointed by the governor to the (Colorado Agriculture Commission), then I ran for the state House. I had in my two years there 15 or 16 bills go through. The most interesting one was the bill that allowed re-corking of wine at restaurants and alcohol tastings. That had been introduced six times, and finally we got that through.And then, for the City of Westminster, when I came on board in 2007, they had the same amount of water in Standley Lake. And I said `You need more water. You’ve got enough water for single-story (development), but what happens when you go up?’ Finally, they listened and in 2011-12, we convinced them to go out and buy more water. They bought enough that the city now owns 21,000-plus acre-feet, or about half of Standley Lake, which is enough for that future growth. That’s a critical aspect.Now that you’re not an elected official you’ve got two more projects you’re working on — Westminster Chamber of Commerce and the Commuter Rail NOW project. What drives you to do so much for Westminster and invest so much in its future?I had many, many people over my lifetime who have made contributions to me, and I don’t think I adequately thanked them, right? But I still owe a debt to them. I’m still trying to pay it forward to thank those who supported me in my endeavors.So, instead of looking at the past, let’s talk the future: What’s it look like in Westminster?It’s going to go up. (Points up.) Let me give you a comparison. In 1900, the population of this great state was 500,000. In 2000, the population grew to 4.5 million. So, if you draw it out to 2100, we’re going to be at 18,000,000. If Westminster is going to be able to accommodate that growth, they’re going to have to have the ability to have about 336,000 people. That’s where we need to be positioning ourselves. That’s why I support the downtown. There’s four locations in Westminster that can support higher density, and if we put in zoning to afford that … we can.So I see you have a master’s degree in horticulture. What kind of unique perspective does a degree like that lend to governing?You’re the first person to ever ask me that question. Well, plants have to have the right kind of environment to grow. People have to have the right kind of environment to grow and prosper. And so there’s a relationship between the two. If you don’t create the right kind of environment, the community doesn’t grow.Finally, what are some of the things you like about this city you’ve invested so much in?My kids say, when you walk into a place and you know somebody, their comment is `Dad, can’t you go into some place and not be known?’ My definition of hometown is when you can go to a grocery story and always know somebody. Westminster is a big community now but it has not lost that hometown, that community feel. The other thing is our city government. We’re one of the few municipalities in the state that elect all the council people at large. And I think you get a better government when as an official you look at the decision as good for the whole rather than good for the piece.
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