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Durango activist announces second bid for a seat on City Council

Harrison Wendt says housing, infrastructure among town’s greatest issues
Wendt

Durango resident Harrison Wendt, 25, announced Thursday he will enter the race for Durango City Council.

The news comes on the heels of Mayor Barbara Noseworthy’s announcement on Jan. 5 that she will not pursue reelection. Councilor Kim Baxter also said in December she will not run for a second term on City Council.

Wendt, a youth programming coordinator at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Durango, said housing, infrastructure and essential city services are among the city’s chief issues. And, with an economy so reliant on young people, the 20-somethings need equal representation in local government.

He made an unsuccessful bid for a position on City Council in 2021, running on a platform of bold, progressive change. He admitted he lost the race by “a significant margin” and dedicated his time to issues that mattered to him. But over the last two years, he’s put in work building community and learning from Durango residents about what matters most to them.

He said he has realized that serving in municipal government is about “moving the needle” toward larger change down the road. But that isn’t to say some items don’t require bold change, such as housing and infrastructure, he said.

The city’s Downtown’s Next Step project, a re-envisioning of Main Avenue between Fifth and 14th streets, is a “huge” opportunity for replacing decades-old piping that has passed its prime, he said.

Wendt said improving mental health services and resources at Durango Police Department is another priority and he’d like to “build the bridge” between DPD and Axis Health System. He also supports housing the police department and Durango Fire Protection District under one roof, an idea the city is currently exploring with a focus on the feasibility of renovating River City Hall on Camino del Rio.

“I also learned that hearing and listening from constituents is one of the most important things I can do. They are everything, they are our city,” he said.

In particular, Wendt wants to hear from Durango’s underrepresented and working people, he said.

“I’m really ready to bring a fresh perspective and huge change to our Durango City Council. A new generation, a younger generation,” he said.

He said Durango isn’t ready for the kind of growth that is happening and expected to keep happening over the next decade. Preparations must be made on the part of the city, he said.

“I see our increasing issues with housing to be one of the biggest issues that we’re facing,” he said. “As a working-class person of Durango, I see the struggles firsthand of what it’s like trying to find housing and survive in this town. And it’s not always easy.”

Wendt moved to Durango from Minneapolis in 2017 and instantly fell in love with the community. But he also immediately saw room for improvement, he said.

“I’m always up for a challenge and I think that living here and growing here was a challenge for me. And it was an exciting challenge for me,” he said.

He has participated in multiple activist movements, rallies and protests during his time in Durango. In 2020, he worked closely with the Southwest Movement for Black Lives community. After the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 2022 overturning of Roe v. Wade, which ended nearly 50 years of constitutional protection for abortion, he helped activists organize local events and protests.

He said he is a registered Democrat and has worked with the Democratic Party, but stressed that his role on City Council would be to serve all of the city’s residents.

“No matter political affiliation, no matter age, no matter race, no matter class,” he said. “My political affiliation is Democrat but it ends there. My No. 1 concern is delivering for the people of Durango.”

He said a formal announcement of his candidacy and a campaign kickoff is scheduled to take place at 4:30 p.m. Jan. 19 at the home of Kathleen Adams, 603 E. Ninth St., with an open house to follow.

cburney@durangoherald.com

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