Thornton appoints Eric Garcia to fill Ward 1 vacancy

Luke Zarzecki
lzarzecki@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 3/14/22

Thornton’s council appointed Eric Garcia to fill the Ward 1 vacancy on a 5-3 vote during a special city council meeting on March 8, with City Councilors Karen Bigelow, Kathy Henson and Julia Marvin …

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Thornton appoints Eric Garcia to fill Ward 1 vacancy

Posted

Thornton’s council appointed Eric Garcia to fill the Ward 1 vacancy on a 5-3 vote during a special city council meeting on March 8, with City Councilors Karen Bigelow, Kathy Henson and Julia Marvin opposing. 

City Councilor Julia Marvin wanted more deliberation on the candidates and made a motion to have a discussion on all of the candidates. It failed 5-3. 

She pointed to the end of the March 6 meeting when the council interviewed candidates and gave their top choices. 

“We had potential consensus for at least two candidates,” Marvin said. 

Those two candidates were Jenice “JJ” Dove and Eric Garcia. 

Mayor Pro Tem Jessica Sandgren thought March 6 provided enough discussion on the candidates. 

“I think the majority did discuss who our preferences were,” she said. 

Marvin then made another motion to appoint Jenice “JJ” Dove to fill the vacancy. 

Marvin pointed to the divided council and said Dove received support from “both sides.” Marvin’s motion failed 5-3, however. 

Sandgren said that Dove told councilors she would not run for reelection when her appointed term is up.

“I don’t want a placeholder,” she said in a separate interview. “JJ would have been great, but she also said she’s not interested in running.” 

The Process 

Henson, Bigelow and Marvin all faulted the 21-day process and felt it was rushed. In the past, they compared it to a process council used in 2019 to fill a vacancy left by Mayor Jan Kulmann becoming mayor. 

“I think we should apply the same rules every single time so the wards are treated equally,” Bigelow said in the Feb. 16 meeting. 

Sandgren said that the council wanted the 30 days to fill the seat in 2019, but said holidays got in the way. 

“The timeline never landed on the week that we wanted (in 2019) the week would have been  Thanksgiving and then it was Christmas and then it was New Years,” she said in the Feb. 16 meeting. “We’re not looking at two holidays in a row like we did before.”

Bigelow — who previously said she would not partake in the process —  called the proceeding undemocratic, even though a majority vote approved it. 

During the interviews, Bigelow also did not voice who she supported, at the end when all the other councilors did. 

Marvin thinks a committee should be established in these situations to appoint a new council member.

In a separate interview, Henson explained that she would have liked a rubric detailing objective qualities of the candidates, including community involvement, leadership experience and participation with the city council. 

Eric Garcia 

Garcia has lived in Ward 1 for 12 years. He works for Charter Communications as a Senior Project Manager and referenced his work on four boards and commissions. Those include the Gang Reduction Initiative of Denver, Denver Safe Haven Project and the Safety Facillities 2017 GO Bond. 

As well, Garcia served as a Community Pastor in Denver for 15 years and received a letter of recommendation from Paul Pazen, Denver’s Chief of Police. 

“One of the key phrases (Pazen wrote) I really enjoyed was when he picked a value, he chose passion and a passion to serve,” City Councilor David Acunto said. 

Sandgren echoed Acunto’s support and referenced Garcia’s work in nonprofits that work with issues relevant to Thornton. 

Marvin thinks that although Garcia is active in the Denver community, he does not have enough experience or connections within the Thornton community. 

“The fact that the remaining representation from Ward 1 who is the only voice of Ward 1 right now does not support this candidate, to me that’s a red flag,” she said. “I do not deny Eric has done a lot for his community, but none of that has been in Thornton.” 

Sandgren disagreed and said Garcia’s experience in Denver beneficial to Thornton because many issues Denver faces are parallel with Thornton’s. 

She said Garcia understands local government, has served the homeless population and that Garcia, a registered Republican, has shown non-partisanship through work with Democrat policymakers.

As well, she said Garcia would make the council more diverse.

“I think Ward 1 does have the biggest percentage of Hispanic voters in the city,” she said. 

Sandgren said at the end of the meeting, Garcia told her about racist comments coming from Ward 3 residents that had been watching the proceedings, but it did not discourage him. 

“He shook it off and he said, you know, she’s not in my ward. I’m not gonna worry about her. I’m going to get in there and represent the people that I know that haven’t been represented,” Sandgren said. 

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