Al Gardner calls himself a “civically engaged citizen” who has lived in Denver for the last 20 years. He is an IT executive for Salud Family Health, a network of clinics serving low-income Coloradans, and Inspirato, a luxury vacation rental company. He has also served on various boards and commissions, including the Denver Civil Service Commission, the Denver African American Commission and the Citizen Oversight Board.
According to city data, Gardner’s qualification for the Denver Fair Elections Fund was revoked. As of the start of February, Gardner had received $12,150 in campaign funding.
March 22 update |Response to the shooting of two deans at East High School in Denver:
I would first like to offer my prayers and support to the victims and students of East High School who experienced this distressing act of violence today in what should be a safe space. I hope that the victims recover from their injuries and to their full ability soon. This type of violence is taking place too often, and impacting families in ways that will forever change them. There is no single approach that will eradicate these types of attacks, however I believe that we can work together to produce collective strategies that prevent them from happening at all. We must make our children, teachers, and all school staff safe......Now!
Denver7's Chief Investigative Reporter asked Gardner about his plans if elected as Denver's next mayor. Watch their conversation or read a transcript below.
Tony Kovaleski: Thank you for joining us. I'd like you to begin by introducing yourself to the voters and, in 30 seconds, tell them your story.
Al Gardner: I am a citizen of Denver; been in Denver almost a little over 20 years now. Started my career as a journeyman helper, worked my way up to IT executive roles. Currently sit on the Civil Service Commission. I've served on the Citizens Oversight Board, and a number of other boards around the city. I think this is the time now for a change in leadership, a change of perspective, and to have someone serving the city of Denver who understands people, understands how to communicate and understands to bring the real power of the people to the mayor's office. And that's who I am. I'm a person that believes in the collective brilliance of Denver.
Tony Kovaleski: Insiders tell us the four most important issues in this race are crime, homelessness, housing, and transportation. Rank them from most important to least important for you and please share why.
Al Gardner: I say I'll choose homeless because if you don't have a home, and you're struggling and worried about where you're going to live, that often leads us to other things where we get to crime, right? And then crime becomes very important, how we're going to face that. The other one was?
Tony Kovaleski: Transportation and housing.
Al Gardner: Transportation and housing. Housing is that third one there because when you look at stable housing, affordable housing, the ability of the folks that live here to stay here and to thrive here — that becomes extremely important. As folks are housed and as they realize that American dream of homeownership, then you have to be able to get back and forth from a transportation perspective, be able to get from work to school and those other things. So, that would be my ranking.
Tony Kovaleski: So, follow-up question there, based upon your No. 1 priority issue homelessness. What is your pledge to voters on how you will address it, and how might that be different than the other candidates on this ballot?
Al Gardner: Yeah, I think, obviously, the Housing First perspective and the way that we're approaching it is the right way. However, I think my approach to it is to strengthen those wraparound services, those services that enable people to get into these programs and to thrive. I don't see Housing First as the end, but it's almost the beginning of that continuum that gets folks stable long enough to really kind of work toward housing ownership and more stable housing.
Tony Kovaleski: Like many cities, Denver has key financial needs. If elected, what would you prioritize? And maybe where would you trim?
Al Gardner: I definitely would prioritize the ability to discover and bring programs to housing and homelessness issues. Right now, even with the sweeps that we do, that's a starting point. But there's a lot of other things that we need to do in order to make people safe and to bring them into homes. So, I think that's one. The other priority is public safety. And when I say public safety, I don't just mean police. I mean, public safety from a whole holistic perspective, which involves drug addiction, which involves all of these other things that impact the quality of life.
Tony Kovaleski: As you know, Denver is a wonderfully diverse city. If you are elected, will you make a commitment to ensure your administration reflects the diversity of Denver? And if yes, how?
Al Gardner: Diversity at this day and age has almost become a buzzword. And a lot of people are approaching it as a check mark; something that sounds good and looks good. But really, if it's not important to the leader, it will not be important to everyone else down the line. And my approach to that will be to make sure — like I've done throughout my career — is to make sure that everyone is involved, and it's to put time and energy in it and to really speak to the issue. We can't fix it, going around it, afraid to say it. We do have an issue, not just at Denver, but it's in this country. And I think it takes someone who's unafraid to approach that. And to be honest about it.
Tony Kovaleski: Thank you. In this election, city council has the potential for a significant change in the way it's made up. How are you planning to work with the new council? And what will that relationship look like?
Al Gardner: In finding that common ground and not having an adversarial relationship, as much as it is learning what things are important to the council and the mayor's office. We're fortunate to share that responsibility, almost empowered here in Denver, and I welcome the ability really to work alongside the council. So, I envision my ability to work alongside them in more of a partnership relationship. And I've worked with them in the past. And I think that can work.
Tony Kovaleski: Interesting question here: If you could ask one other candidate one question, Which candidate And what is that question?
Al Gardner: It would be Mike Johnston. And I would ask him — I'm really interested in how he will eradicate homeless in one year. Because that I cannot do.
Tony Kovaleski: Very fair. This is a chance to get to know you as a person. What's the last book you read and why? And what do you do for fun?
Al Gardner: Hmm, Jonathan Kozol "Savage Inequalities." And it's a book that talks about the disparities in education systems, mainly in inner city and urban education systems. So, very interested in that right now. I know Denver doesn't — the City of Denver doesn't run DPS (Denver Public Schools). However, we have considerable influence and can work with them in order to improve that. And why am I reading that book?
Tony Kovaleski: You can build on that, or you can go to what you do for fun.
Al Gardner: What do I do for fun? I play golf and I am an amateur photographer. So, some of my pictures I post on my Instagram, and I like to grab my camera, head to the mountains and I love photographing nature and things of that perspective. So, those are the two things that kind of keep me grounded.
Tony Kovaleski: So, we're gonna close. You've got a couple minutes here. Please talk to the voters and give a closing statement. What do you want the voters of Denver to know?
Al Gardner: I want the voters of Denver to know that when you choose the next mayor, you're not only choosing someone who will or needs to sit behind the desk, and act as a CEO to the city. That's one piece of it. But you also need a mayor who can connect. You also need a mayor that can bring people together. And you also need a mayor with vision. And that vision has to be for the whole city. And not just the city of today. But the city that we want to be tomorrow. And that's what's most important to your vote and my vote.