Honoring Colorado’s Black Present & Future: Mayor Michael B. Hancock
Even after the month of February comes to a close, Visible Network Labs will continue to highlight and recognize Black Coloradans and their contributions to our state. We’ve honored some of our state’s past heroes, and today we’d like to honor the City of Denver’s 45th Mayor, Michael B. Hancock.
Born July 29th, 1969 in Killeen, TX, Mayor Hancock and his twin sister were the youngest of 10 children. The family moved shortly after their birth, settling in Denver. Life wasn’t easy. Family members had drug addictions and some were imprisoned. The family moved frequently and was intermittently homeless; The Mayor attended six different elementary schools before moving on to Cole Middle School, and graduating from Manual High School. At Manual, he became the student council president for three years, and played on the school’s football team as wide receiver and safety. He even went to the Super Bowl with the Denver Broncos in 1987– as the team’s mascot, known as “Huddles”.
Late in his high school career, Mayor Hancock gave an impassioned speech to his classmates about avoiding the gangs that were actively recruiting in certain Denver neighborhoods. After graduating, as an intern for Mayor Frederico Peña’s administration, Mayor Hancock saw changes that helped Denver progress from a sleepy city in the Rockies to the bustling and growing metro area that it is today, including the construction of Denver International Airport, the redevelopment of lower downtown and other areas like Lowry and Stapleton.
His intimate, local perspective of Denver led him to begin his career with the Denver Housing Authority, creating programs focusing on leadership and athletics for over 11,000 kids living in the city’s public housing, and to join the National Civic and Metro Denver Urban Leagues. The city and its organizations needed his help; the finances of the Metro Denver Urban League were in such bad shape that as a program director, the first paycheck he received bounced. He spent the next few years helping the organization overhaul its strategy, improve its finances and focus more on job creation and urban development. In 1999, at age 29, he became president of the League, the youngest president of an Urban League chapter anywhere in the country.
In 2002, tragedy struck. His sister Karen was shot and killed in a murder-suicide by an estranged boyfriend in the Montbello section of Denver. The Mayor and his twin sister Michele were the first people on the scene, and waited for an extended period of time for ambulances to arrive. This experience drove Mayor Hancock to later on successfully advocate for stationing more emergency services in the Northeast part of the city, which has been historically underserved.
The Mayor served in his role as Metro Denver Urban League President until 2003, when he was elected to Denver City Council by voters from Denver’s 11th District. Before being reelected in 2007, he was elected Denver City Council President in 2006, serving until 2008. At the time, then-Mayor John Hickenlooper rose to the Governor’s office after some political shake-ups, Mayor Hancock ran for the office, winning in a runoff election in 2011 with 58.08% of the vote. He has gone on to win reelection decisively in 2015 and 2019. Throughout his time as Mayor, he has been widely popular, raising Denver’s minimum wage and championing job creation and sound budgeting.
Mayor Hancock serves as Chair of the Communications and Transportation committee for the U.S. Conference of Mayors, is the Vice President of the National Conference of Democratic Mayors, and is a member of the African American Mayor’s Association. He is the second Black man to serve as Mayor of the City of Denver. We at Visible Network Labs honor and thank Mayor Hancock for his contributions to our home City of Denver and the beautiful State of Colorado.
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About the Author: Will Jacobson
Will Jacobson is the Business Development Specialist on VNL’s Marketing and Communications Team. Originally from New York City, Will loves living in Colorado and all the outdoor life it has to offer. He’s also a pretty big foodie!