Rita Bertolli: The Gadfly Who Would Be Mayor

Rita Bertolli has tangled with the Lakewood City Council and Mayor Steve Burkholder so many times that she's decided that it's better to beat 'em than join 'em. But can a twentysomething activist who rages against "corporate welfare" actually change the course of politics as usual in one of the metro area's most complacent cities?

Although the news seeped out some weeks ago, this morning Bertolli officially declared herself a candidate for mayor. (Her official campaign kick-off will be at Addenbrooke Park on August 18.) She vows to take no corporate contributions, but it's doubtful she'll have to turn down many. Last winter she led a successful campaign to block a swap of park land to a major developer in exchange for a gulch touted as a "wildlife corridor." The deal was heavily supported by the city council and Mayor Burkholder — and well-funded by a phone-and-flyer campaign paid for by the developer — but Bertolli's grass-roots effort put a stop to it. Read all about it here and here.

Bertolli is now involved in a podcasting venture that rents studio space at the Five Points Media Center and offers its services to other troublemakers who want to reach voters through the Internet. Can that kind of below-the-radar approach woo enough of the 90,000 voters in Lakewood to make a difference? Maybe not, but last year's upset shows that she shouldn't be underestimated. – Alan Prendergast

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Sean Cronin