Frank Lockwood says he is the second-most experienced candidate running for Durango City Council, after Melissa Youssef, the only incumbent candidate.
Lockwood, 70, is one of seven candidates running for three open seats on City Council during the April 6 elections. City councilors debate and approve policies that span varied sectors of city government and community issues. The job requires a breadth of experience – which Lockwood said he has.
“My breadth and depth of experience both far exceeds most of my opponents,” Lockwood said.
Lockwood, who moved to Durango in 2011, is retired after a 30-year career as a civil trial lawyer in Hawaii, specializing in family law. He was an owner and senior partner of Lockwood & Hartley and owns Lockwood Professional Development, through which he acts as a tourism marketing consultant and trainer.
He specialized in navigating and teaching conflict resolution, a facet of collaboration, negotiation and strategic planning, he said.
“It’s those skills that help us address whatever problem that comes before us,” Lockwood said. “I think that will be an excellent asset as a City Council member.”
He got involved in La Plata County government after helping county commissioners Gwen Lachelt and Julie Westendorff with their campaigns. He wanted to get involved, so he joined the La Plata County Planning Commission from 2013 to 2016. He dove into funding hearings and helped develop the comprehensive plan.
“I like to have a say-so. I’m not the kind of person that can sit in the background and do nothing,” Lockwood said.
He has been like that since the beginning of his career as a lawyer, he said. He saw ways to improve the legal profession by changing service delivery, helping overwhelmed courts address family case loads and integrating computers into the practice of law.
“I kind of get an idea of where the problems are, where it needs to go, and then I jump in with both feet,” Lockwood said. “I’ve been doing that my entire career. That’s what’s led me to where I am today, with deciding to get involved as a city councilor.”
He turned to Durango politics in helping former Mayor Dick White and current Mayor Dean Brookie with their campaigns. He also makes frequent campaign donations, primarily to Democratic candidates or committees. Since 2012, he has donated about $2,800, according to state records.
It wasn’t anything in particular that motivated him to run in 2020, Lockwood said.
“I had to decide what I wanted to do with my life going forward ... for me it came down to practicing law or some kind of public service,” Lockwood said. “I got involved in the background ... and decided that’s what I wanted to do.”
If elected, Lockwood’s top priority comes down to one word: process.
“Having watched the City Council for months and months and months, they’re pretty inefficient in making decisions,” Lockwood said. “I would improve the process.”
The city of Durango’s total revenue in 2020 was $102.7 million, and City Council members play a leading role in deciding how the money gets spent.
Handling that budget comes down to financial management, prioritizing important services and obligations, and dividing the money responsibly, he said, referencing his experience as the executive director of the Durango Area Tourism Office, now Visit Durango.
“Sometimes, it appears that you have a zero-sum game,” Lockwood said. “It really is a decision-making process that has to be gone through in a deliberate and fair way.”
Lockwood joined DATO in 2017 and was fired in 2019.
“I got into that situation because I had the temerity to suggest that Ron LeBlanc was beginning to gouge the tourism budget, and he was not doing it legally,” Lockwood said. “Everybody was reluctant to go against Ron LeBlanc. I was not afraid at all. ... I suffered because of that.”
He said he has a settlement agreement with the board of directors that restricts his comments, but that ultimately, the situation wrapped up in a “good, positive way.”
The city also recently faced a $710,000 embezzlement case spanning a decade. Lockwood said the city has taken the proper steps to make sure the fraud won’t happen again, but it’s not a councilor’s job to be a financial manager.
“There has been some micromanaging by city councilors, which has adversely affected city employees. That’s not our job,” Lockwood said. “We’re not managers. We’re policymakers.”
When it comes down to the vote, Lockwood characterized himself as a candidate who could bring decades of experience in conflict resolution, efficiently collect information and weigh different viewpoints.
“It’s better to have a wide breadth and depth (of experience) in terms of skill-building or technical expertise,” Lockwood said. “I think I have that.”