Perspectives from City Manager of Commerce City, Brian McBroom

Commerce City-skate-400x400pxBuilding a community of health takes considerable time, significant investment and thoughtful dedication, which is exactly what has happened in Commerce City. It just became the first municipality to reach the Elite level of the HEAL Cities & Towns Campaign. We sat down with City Manager of Commerce City, Brian McBroom to understand how Commerce City is redefining its image beginning with health.

How has the LiveWell HEAL Cities & Towns Campaign changed what you do?
The LiveWell HEAL Cities & Towns Campaign has helped us transform our thinking. We’ve been building sidewalks and trails for 40 to 50 years, but what’s different now is why we are doing it. We used to think of our pathways and trails as just amenities. Focusing on building a healthy community has helped us prioritize them in new ways. For example, we’re now more centered on how our trails and sidewalks can serve as safe transportation not just recreation. Taking on measures like these are important to the community and the legacy we leave for the next generation. It’s not just about making our community more attractive, it gives our residents more opportunities to be healthy.

How does it feel to be the first city to earn the Elite level status of the HEAL Cities & Towns Campaign?
This is really a moment of pride for everyone here in Commerce City. While we may not always be thought of as a first-tier city, we’re striving to make meaningful changes that help grow our community for future generations to come. We truly believe you need to make the healthy choice the easy choice. None of this would be possible without the leadership of our City Council, their courage and commitment to health above all the other competing priorities.

“Focusing on health can be a real challenge, especially for those in our community who are struggling to make ends meet.”

What struggles do you face in building a healthier community?
Ultimately, this has been about a mindset shift among staff and community. We’re working to understand how we provide better services to the community. As we update our city-wide comprehensive plan which sets the stage for the next five to ten years, we’ll need to weave health and wellness into it. One of the biggest questions we’ll need to address is how we make sure these measures are sustainable well into the future. Focusing on health can be a real challenge, especially for those in our community who are struggling to make ends meet. Meeting those basic needs like making sure they don’t go to bed hungry or worrying where they live will help us all raise the standard of living for everyone in the community.

Of the many measures Commerce City has put in place, what are you most proud of?
We’re tremendously proud of the work we’ve done with LiveWell HEAL Cities & Towns Campaign, Community Enterprise and the food banks in making it easier to access healthy food. Like many communities, we’re working on a number of complex issues from addressing homelessness to kids who don’t have enough to eat. We’re tapping into the same amount of resources but are getting a better outcome now. For example, the City Council funds the Quality Community Foundation, which invests in non-profit organizations that serve Commerce City residents, a major part of which goes to food banks. This arrangement has led food banks to commit to store and distribute fresh fruits and vegetables.

We’re also really proud of our Safe Routes to School grant which has helped improve kids’ ability to get from their neighborhood to school. This effort has had an immediate impact on helping make it safer to walk to school and, as a result, we’ve had more students willing to walk to school. While this may be small in scale, it’s made a big impact in the neighborhood.

“We’re tremendously proud of the work we’ve done with LiveWell HEAL Cities & Towns Campaign, Community Enterprise and the food banks in making it easier to access healthy food.”

Now that Commerce City has reached Elite Level of the Heal Cities & Towns Campaign, what’s next?
Our city’s vision statement is “Quality Community for a Lifetime.” A lot has happened in the past five to ten years to help make it feel like can be a place for your family and I can’t imagine getting there without the steps Commerce City has made to sharpen our focus on health and wellness. We’re so much more than what folks see as they drive down I-270. We now have a much broader understanding of what it means to provide services for that “lifetime” and what this community can be in the long term. Health and wellness will continue to be crucial to our efforts as we build Commerce City as a quality community.