It would be easy enough to think that Scott Criqui started campaigning for the Lawrence City Commission nearly a year ago — many months before other candidates — because he wanted extra time to get to know the community.
Address: 446 Alabama St.
Occupation: Human resources director
Education: Undergraduate degrees in communication studies and psychology from Kansas University; masters in human resource management from Webster University.
Family: With domestic partner, James Edmonds
Sure, he wanted time to meet people and hear their ideas, but Criqui said he already has a pretty good idea of what Lawrence is all about: It’s the community that fed him for a long time.
Criqui is a Lawrence native. His mother lost four children in childbirth, his two older brothers have developmental disabilities, and the family’s father passed away when Criqui was 12.
“You could say my family had lots of struggles,” Criqui said.
It also ended up having a lot of support.
“When I was starting junior high, the community just really rallied around us,” Criqui said. “I don’t know how it happened, but when we came home there was always just lots of food. I never knew who did it. I just knew it was great because we weren’t on Social Security death benefits yet, and times were tough.”
Criqui is one of 11 candidates seeking a seat on the Lawrence City Commission.
He said there were other acts from the community that left an impression too: Teachers who provided extra help for his brothers; hospice workers who acted as male role models for Criqui while his father was dying; and numerous people and organizations who helped contribute to Criqui’s finances for college education.
“We were the poster child for putting someone in poverty through school,” Criqui said.
Although Criqui’s early filing in the race — he filed six months before the deadline — may have caught some local political observers by surprise, the fact he’s running shouldn’t, he said.
“My mom instilled in me that if you were given something, you had to give back,” Criqui said.
Criqui, 32, is an executive with Lawrence’s Trinity In Home Care. He is the nonprofit’s human resources director but also has been serving as the organization’s interim executive director.
Criqui’s political reputation, though, is more closely linked to his role as a member of the city’s Human Relations Commission, a board that oversees the city’s anti-discrimination laws.
In 2011, Criqui led a group that successfully lobbied the City Commission to pass an ordinance making it illegal to discriminate against people because of their transgender identity.
Criqui said he doesn’t have any particular human rights or social justice-oriented issues that he’s trying to advance as a City Commission candidate, but he said he’s long been drawn to such issues.
“The transgender issue was probably one of the easier ones I’ve been involved in,” Criqui said. “We’re lucky to live in Lawrence.”
Criqui came out as gay while attending high school in Lawrence in the 1990s. He said even in Lawrence, issues of discrimination or harassment arose.
“There was a lot of bullying in school, name-calling, pushing, fighting and property destroyed,” Criqui said. “But now that’s kind of nice because after that, running for City Commission is pretty easy. People attacking my ideas, that’s no big deal.”
Criqui thinks his experience with social justice issues and also his career in human relations will be an asset on the City Commission.
“It has taught me how to have really difficult conversations about a variety of topics, but still treat them with respect and be straightforward,” he said.
Criqui said he’s even still friends with some of the people who were most opposed to the transgender ordinance.
“Just because you disagree on an issue doesn’t mean you can’t still be very friendly,” Criqui said. “It strengthens the community if you keep listening to the other side.”
Criqui said during his door-to-door campaigning over the last year, he has heard a consistent theme from residents: The city needs to spend more time planning for its future. Criqui said he’ll push for the city to rewrite its comprehensive Horizon 2020 plan, which was developed in the 1990s.
“We need to set our priorities again,” Criqui said. “Residents have told me time and time again that we don’t have a vision for the city.”
On other issues, Criqui:
• Wants to undertake planning for a Lawrence cultural district that will allow the community to better capitalize on the city’s unique culture and history.
• Supports improving the community’s vocational-education opportunities.
• Will look for ways for the city to grow without constantly expanding its boundaries.
“I don’t think the community has to expend its footprint to be economically viable,” Criqui said. “We can grow up like downtown is, and we can look for more infill and redevelopment opportunities.”
A Feb. 26 primary will narrow the field of 11 City Commission candidates down to six. The general election — where the top three vote winners will take a seat on the commission — will be April 2.