Trail-runner Eric Senseman is trying to win a different kind of race as he announced plans to pursue one of the three Flagstaff City Council seats up for grabs in the 2020 election.
Senseman, who runs with the Coconino Cowboys group and works part time at the company Squirrel Nut Butter, said he wants to run in part to stand up and protect the “intrinsic” values of place and community that make up Flagstaff.
Senseman said one of those intrinsic values is open space and added he wants to make sure concerns of open space are balanced with those of development and affordable housing.
“[Open space and development] are tied together closely but are really important because Flagstaff isn’t going to stop growing,” Senseman said. “I’ve lived quite a few places and traveled a lot and there’s nowhere in the country, probably in the world, that has trail access like Flagstaff. It’s truly exceptional.”
Senseman pointed at the area near Schultz Pass that has been floated as an option for an affordable housing development as an example of one area that may be better left open, especially because of the traffic that already clogs Fort Valley Road in winter.
Senseman said he and his partner recently purchased a house in the Sunnyside neighborhood and they saw just how expensive it is to buy a place in Flagstaff. But Senseman added he wants to ensure city leaders are as informed as possible when making decisions regarding development.
Senseman, who has lived in Flagstaff since October of 2017, is originally from St. Louis but said he has long had a connection to the city. Senseman said he visited Flagstaff fairly often beginning when he was 3 as he came to see some of his grandparents and other extended family members who live in or just outside the city.
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And Senseman said he wants to run for the council because he loves the sense of community Flagstaff has, especially in comparison to other cities in which he and his partner have lived.
“Here in Flagstaff, the first day we moved in we had, I think, seven people stop by and say ‘hey,’” Senseman said.
His candidacy was also somewhat inspired by conversations he had with friends involved in local politics in other cities and podcasts focused on local governments, which he said made him realize how important it is to have local elected officials with integrity.
Senseman said he believes the city has chosen officials with integrity and he has the skills to join them.
If Senseman is elected, he will be a newcomer to local governance, having no experience with working with city council or any of the city’s commissions, but he said there are other skills he believes he can bring to such a position.
Working for a small business in town, and meeting other local business owners, has given him an understanding of how business works and what businesses need to thrive. Additionally, Senseman said studying philosophy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison during graduate school taught him that the process in which a decision is made is extremely important.