Dec 16, 2021 - News

Denver's city agency leaders are leaving in droves

Illustration of a corporate worker exiting through a door
Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Many of the people Mayor Michael Hancock handpicked to lead the city of Denver are now heading for the door.

Why it matters: With Hancock's third and final term coming to a close in 2023, the mayor's cabinet is clearing out.

  • The exits could signify a slowdown in city business under his administration and solidify the mayor's status as a lame duck.

Driving the news: Murphy Robinson β€” Denver's top public safety leader β€” is stepping down after serving less than two years.

  • In a statement Monday, he said he'd been "planning a departure for months" and sought to give his successor "enough time in the life of the administration to ... contribute in a meaningful way."
  • He did not publicly disclose his next move.

State of play: Robinson's resignation marks one of at least five mayoral appointees to have announced their departures in the last six months, Hancock spokesman Mike Strott tells Axios.

  • Nearly a dozen city agency directors have stepped down since the start of 2020.

Details: The latest turnovers touch a number of agencies, from aviation to economic development.

  • In late November, Denver Excise and Licenses director Ashley Kilroy announced her departure, effective in January 2022, after more than five years in the role.
  • That same month, Denver's economic development chief Eric Hiraga announced his exit after more than four years.
  • Capital Planning and Real Estate director Laura Perry left in October after four years.
  • Kim Day, former head of Denver International Airport, retired in July after a 13-year tenure.
  • And Transportation and Infrastructure director Eulois Cleckley also made his way out that month after taking over in December 2017.

What they're saying: "This is not unusual for the end of a term when people know their job will end when the mayor leaves," Debbie Ortega, who has served as a Denver council person for more than 25 years, tells Axios.

  • "New elected mayors typically assemble their own leadership team of appointees," though there have been "rare instances" of overlap, including DIA's former CEO, who worked for both then-Mayor John Hickenlooper's administration and Hancock's.

Of note: The mayor's spokesman says the growing loss of institutional knowledge will "absolutely not" impede the ability of Hancock's successor to hit the ground running.

  • "We have ... grown a deep bench of agency leadership within the departments," he says. "Our dedicated city employees will be more than ready to help the next administration succeed."

What to watch: Politicians, activists, lobbyists and campaign donors are already readying for the 2023 mayoral election.

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