In only two weeks, Denver voters will receive mail ballots to elect a new Mayor and several City Council seats. Recent polls show that more than 40% of registered voters are still undecided about who to vote for. Polls also show that more than 60% of Denver residents are satisfied with the way the City of Denver is running, which many pundits say indicates that citizens are looking for a mayor who can bring a strong sense of immediate continuity; someone who has proven experience, leadership and executive management background specific to Denver city government.
As regular subscribers know, I’m a supporter of James Mejia’s candidacy for Mayor. I’ve known James for several years, having worked with him in the Mayor’s office and then on his successful campaign for Denver School Board.
I know the majority of the leading mayoral candidates and have worked with many of them. In my opinion, James brings the strongest level of leadership, qualifications and experience needed to lead Denver and to manage the City’s budget challenges. There is no one more qualified than James, who, as Mayor, will bring a background in education that allows him to hold the DPS accountable for the reforms and results that citizens demand of its failing school system.
Former Mayors Webb and Hickenlooper recruited James to be the leaders for their most important legacy projects. Former Mayor Peña said, “James Mejia is ready to lead Denver into this decade with an enhanced vision for our City. He is a leader for our times." And the Denver Post said in a recent editorial, James is "...easily ready to be Denver's mayor."
In 2003, I was one of the early supporters of an underdog for mayor; a man by the name of John Hickenlooper, and I shared with subscribers to this list why I felt he was the best candidate for the job. At that time, I had just come off of spending eight years as one of Mayor Webb’s most senior advisors.
I've had front row seats at the Mayor's office and have witnessed first hand what it takes to be a successful Mayor.
I know that in the morning you might meet with homeless advocates and in the afternoon you are meeting with the CEO of a Fortune 500 company to convince them to come to Denver. In the evening you will be at a neighborhood meeting talking about gang violence and before you go to bed, you are watching the TV news criticize your plans to build a new library.
This job requires experience, a thick skin and keen intellect -- a vision, a strong team and more than anything, a fire-in-the gut leadership style that motivates city employees, citizens, and all of the various communities within Denver.
I have a unique perspective about the role of Denver’s Mayor and hope that you take my experience into consideration when reading my endorsement.
So today, I share with you 10 things I’d like for you to know about James Mejia that demonstrate why he should be elected the next Mayor of Denver. If you want to support James Mejia for Mayor, go to www.mejiaformayor.com
1.) James Mejia first got the itch for public service from his parents. One of 13 kids in his family, his father was a high school principal and his mother ran a day care center. He graduated from Denver’s East High School and earned a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from the University of Notre Dame, a Master’s in Business Administration from Arizona State University, and a Master’s in Public Policy from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University, where he studied policy issues at the municipal, state and federal levels.
2.) James' vast background and experience with city government makes him uniquely qualified to be Mayor and will assure a stream of continuity in city government. Leading some of the city’s most critical agencies through its vast bureaucracy, he has overseen multi-million dollar budgets, managed thousands of workers, and led city agencies to build some of Denver’s crown-jewel projects and programs.
3.) When James was appointed as the head of Denver's Parks and Recreation Department, James was the steward of Mayor Webb’s most important and lasting legacy, the largest expansion of Denver’s Park system in history. In previous leadership roles, Mayor Webb named James as the leader of the city’s Human Rights and Community Relations Office as well as the Deputy Director of the city’s Economic Development and International Trade Office.
4.) Mayor John Hickenlooper recruited James to lead the development and creation of one his most important and lasting legacies, the Denver Justice Center. James oversaw the team that built this voter-approved $425 million bond project which included a 35-courtroom courthouse, 1,500-bed detention facility, a US Post Office and a 663-space parking garage. The project was built on-time and under budget and won many national awards for its sustainable designed.
5.) Mayor Peña recently endorsed James. Mayor Peña said, "No disrespect to the other candidates, but they just don't have his résumé. We don't have to guess whether he can make tough budget decisions. We don't have to guess whether he understands how the city functions from Day One. We don't have to guess whether he understands international trade. We don't have to guess whether he'll know how to cut the budget. He's got the whole package in a way that no other candidate has—they all have pieces of it, but they don't have the whole package."
6.) In 1999, James was overwhelmingly elected by the citizens of Denver to serve as an at-large member of the Denver Public Schools Board of Education. During his four-year term, James led the effort to expand a school-based health center in southwest Denver, helped to create Academia Ana Marie Sandoval, DPS’ first dual language school, and saved over $1Million in construction costs and several hundred thousand in operating costs by building a recreation center adjacent to a charter school in Green Valley Ranch.
7.) James' commitment to children was recognized when he was named the founding CEO of the Denver Preschool Program, a taxpayer-approved initiative to improve access to and funding of high quality preschool in Denver. Since his appointment in 2007, the program has grown from serving 66 children to well over 15,000. Through James’ leadership, the program has provided over $23 million to Denver families to afford the cost of preschool.
8.) James was recruited to on serve several of Denver’s most cherished institutions, including the Denver Botanic Gardens, Denver Zoo, and the Winter Park Recreational Association. He also volunteered as the Chair of Colorado Health Foundation Philanthropy Committee, where he directed over $80 million to health focused non-profits throughout Colorado. He co-founded the García-Mejía Education Foundation to fund scholarships for underrepresented students. He is the immediate Past President of the Board of the historic Denver Athletic Club.
9.) James has run 50 marathons! Anyone who knows James, knows that his personality as a runner translates into his professional life as a public servant. He has a ‘fire-in-the-belly’ never-give-up attitude. He is dedicated and committed and runs through the pain – quitting is never an option. He never says ‘never’ and is disciplined and meticulous in everything he does. His tenacity to finish a race is shown in his drive to finish a project. He is always trying to improve the community around him like he is always trying to improve his running time. Just as he mentored me as a runner, he is always working with others to help them reach their goals in their professional lives.
10.) James' entire career has been dedicated to public service. He was recently named by the Denver Chamber of Commerce and 9News as the “Leader of the Year” for his commitment to the Denver Community; the Denver Post named him under “People to Watch in the New Millennium"; the Rocky Mt. News named him one of the "New Leaders of the Latino Community." He received the “Action Award” from the American Jewish Committee for his work in race and community relations and he was named an American Marshall Memorial Fellow through the German Marshall Fund, and was twice invited to participate in the International Career Advancement Program at the Aspen Institute. James was also a Gates Family Foundation Fellow at Harvard University’s program for Senior Executives in State and Local Government.