Editor’s note: Responses have been edited for length and clarity.

You know her as…Former Ward II City Council person

5280: Why do you want to be mayor?
Renie Peterson: I believe that I’m really the best person suited to be mayor as I was on the City Council in Aurora for 12 years and termed out of office. Two of those years I served as a mayor pro tem—one under Ed Tauer and the other under Steve Hogan—so, I think that I’m the best candidate.

If elected, what’s the first thing you’ll do?
The first thing I’d do is meet with all the Council members to find out what’s important to each individual person. So I can get a grip on the people I’m going to be working with.

What sets you apart from other candidates?
I’m in some ways liberal and in some ways I’m conservative. And so, I think it’s really hard getting to a balance. I’m an unusual sort of candidate because I believe in a “hand up” and not a handout. So I’m conservative when it comes to the budget, but I’m liberal when it comes to ideas of how to improve the future for Aurora 15, 20 years out.

What’s something that voters might not know about you?
I’m artistically inclined and very good at poetry….I write poetry and I’ve done readings and I’m actually illustrating, right now, a children’s book that I plan to publish.

Aurora is one of the state’s most diverse metros—and it is also home to a federal immigration facility that has been the focus of recent protests. How has that impacted the community?
I think that the best asset of Aurora is its cultural diversity. And I’m actually the mother of the Global Festival; it was my idea to create an international festival to celebrate all the multicultures, food, and clothing of our people. So I want to keep celebrating our diversity. I was on the Council in Ward II when GEO [the group that runs the Aurora ICE detention center] came into play. And at that time, it was not controversial, it was accepted by the full Council. They created a neighborhood board at that time that was sort of a watchdog for the facility that would advise them….It went to the wayside. And I think that was a mistake. I think that they should bring that board of neighborhood people back together.

Lightning round: What are your quick thoughts…on growth.
Growth needs to be smart and, I think, around the light rail stations. I’d like to see us start building high rises and a walking, livable community where young people and millennials would like to live, and work, and play, and catch the light rail. I also think the older portion of original Aurora is a living, walkable community the way it’s set up. And I would say, let’s entice that and bring in more cultural arts—let’s have more art celebrations. And let’s think about a place where artists can work at a reduced fee so that we can spark the growth of the arts in the original Aurora area.

…on energy, oil, and gas.
When I read about the new commission that’s been formed, I think it’s really kind of unfair. There’s not enough—it should be balanced. I was the person that set a committee together in Aurora for gas and oil. And we made sure that we had equal partnership with the industry and with the neighbors. And I think that the commission that’s in place right now does not have enough neighborhood people involved.

…on affordable housing.
I’d like to see us allow for mother-in-law homes to be built behind homes, which could be used for not only aging senior parents, but our young people that are not able to leave home yet, or rentals for people just starting out….I would be OK with us having tiny home villages. I went out to the Seattle to Portland areas and toured, looked at all of those. And if they’re done right, they can actually be pretty nice. So I think that that might be an idea to help people to be able to afford a first place.

Natasha Gardner
Natasha Gardner
Natasha Gardner is a Denver-based writer and the former Articles Editor for 5280.