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John Gerstle, Carrying On the Family Tradition of Municipal Engagement


This is the second in a series of candidate profiles written by students in Instructor Jeff Browne’s CU News Corps course at CU-Boulder. Gloria Dickie is a master’s of environmental journalism student. Originally from Ontario, Canada, she studied media, information and technology at the University of Western Ontario while working as an editor for The Gazette, Western’s daily student newspaper, and freelancing for many other local publications.

John Gerstle (from

From the Himalayas to the Flatirons, Boulder City Council candidate John Gerstle can’t seem to escape the mountains.

The 61-year-old Boulder native, who currently acts as chairman of the Boulder County Planning Commission, has had an illustrious career leading up to his bid for City Council.

In the 1980s, Gerstle served as resident adviser to the Royal Government of Bhutan, and then as the United Nations Himalayan regional adviser for the environment.

Despite a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from the University of Colorado at Boulder, and a master’s in civil and environmental engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Gerstle said he was ultimately given the job of resident adviser because of his age.

“[The government] had requested an adviser, but the adviser couldn’t be older than the king,” Gerstle recalled with a laugh. “They didn’t want someone who would develop a patronizing relationship.”

After spending a half-decade in South Asia, Gerstle returned to his roots.

“Boulder was always my home. It was time to come back,” he said of his decision to swap snow-covered giants for the Front Range.

Now, Gerstle hopes to carry on a family tradition with his candidacy.

“My family has been involved [in municipal politics] for a long time. Even as a kid I was carrying brochures on issues related to the first establishment of the blue line.”

The blue line was a city-charter amendment passed in 1959 that restricted city water service to altitudes below 5,750 feet to discourage development in the mountains.

From 2002 to 2008, Gerstle served on the county’s Mosquito Control Advisory Board, and has served on the BCPC since 2008, working on revisions of the Boulder County Comprehensive Plan and making decisions on land use and natural resources.

Gerstle’s family. From left, son Nicholas, wife Heidi, daughter Pia, and John (from

Indeed, much of Gerstle’s platform revolves around land use and advocating for Open Space—and he has plenty of support from the community.

“From my point of view, John is the best qualified candidate running for city council this year,” Ray Bridge, co-chair of PLAN-Boulder County, said, pointing to Gerstle’s track record on open space and land use issues.

“His record in five years on the BCPC has been stellar. He has been thoughtful and collegial, but has been willing to stand his ground on issues he considered significant,” Bridge continued.

Moreover, Gerstle has a great deal of passion for the city he’s called home for over 50 years.

“Boulder has a very responsive, active citizenry that participates in city government and is willing to adopt progressive attitudes,” he said, acknowledging the city’s physical location didn’t hurt either.

And Gerstle often takes full advantage of the city’s “pleasant climate,” biking to work downtown, and hiking the Mesa trail in his free time.

Though he never conquered Everest, Gerstle hopes to come out on top this election season.


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