The 2020 race for Flagstaff City Council has yet another contender.
Denny Lauritsen, who works as an assistant vice president at the local office of International Insurance Group and previously coached youth hockey, has begun gathering signatures to appear on the ballot in 2020.
Lauritsen, who has lived in Flagstaff for 17 years after moving to the city from Canada, said he has always believed in involvement in the community. In the past, Lauritsen coached youth sports, but he stopped in 2017.
During the midterm elections in 2018, Lauritsen worked as an election marshal and said he has thought about running for public office ever since.
Although Lauritsen currently works at International Insurance Group, he said he previously worked in the construction industry and for the City of Flagstaff’s Parks and Recreation department for about three years.
“I was living out a childhood dream, I think a dream of many people, and I was running the Zamboni,” Lauritsen said.
But Lauritsen said he thinks working for the city also gives him a unique view of how the city as an organization works.
Lauritsen said he wasn’t making decisions about policy, but working at the ice rink, he could see how money moved around to support different projects and how the goal was not to make a profit off residents but simply break even.
Lauritsen said as he sees the city, Flagstaff has been split into three populations, all with their own issues but all who call the city home: residents, second home owners and students. He said he sees a lot of conflict between all three groups as the issues the city is wrestling with affect populations differently.
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And one of those issues is the minimum wage in Flagstaff. Lauritsen said he thinks the city should try to adjust the minimum wage law to allow small local businesses to pay somewhat less than larger publicly traded companies.
In his experience, Lauritsen said small businesses have difficult times dealing with mandates like a higher minimum wage whereas larger companies can absorb those costs without much problem.
At the same time, Lauritsen said he understands how important the wage increase is for many.
“Flagstaff is expensive to live in. I mean, I have three boys; we go through two gallons of milk every day and my wife makes sure we drink $7 organic, so it’s expensive,” Lauritsen said.
Lauritsen said he also thinks it’s important to protect open space and prevent sprawl because the open spaces and the environment are what attract tourists to Flagstaff.
When looking at development, it is also important for residents to have access to that open space. As such, Lauritsen said he thinks the city should group high density buildings or apartments around public open space and parks.
“I think Sawmill is a great example, but without the open space, there’s no real community area,” Lauritsen said. “Heritage Square is a great example of a communal open space with business around it, just not enough residents.”
Lauritsen said he believes structuring new development in that way may also help to alleviate traffic across the city.