May 22, 2023 - Politics

Mayor-elect Yemi Mobolade ushers in a new era in Colorado Springs

Colorado Springs Mayor-elect Yemi Mobolade. Photo: Courtesy of the Colorado Springs Gazette

Yemi Mobolade's momentous victory last week as Colorado Spring's first elected Black mayor — and its first non-Republican leader in at least 45 years — signifies even more than what's on the surface.

Driving the news: The political newcomer and Nigerian immigrant overwhelmingly defeated Republican heavyweight Wayne Williams by about 15 percentage points, or more than 18,000 votes, unofficial results show.

Why it matters: The shakeup represents a definitive political shift in the state's second-largest city, which has turned more progressive and is slowly shedding its reputation as a conservative military town.

  • Pundits say it also personifies the American dream, where you can come to this country, build a life for yourself, then run for mayor of one of the country's fastest-growing cities — and win.

What they're saying: "It's a new day in the United States of America," Mobolade tells us. "What I mean is this is a historic win that brings life and hope and optimism" to politics, which "most of us are sick and tired of."

The big picture: Mobolade resonated with everyday voters as a business owner running a positive race rather than one focused on attacking his rivals, says Sara Hagedorn, a political science assistant professor at the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs.

  • He also never swung too far to the left or right, meeting the nearly 228,000 Colorado Springs voters who are unaffiliated in the middle.
  • "People are tired of this really polarized politics," and "we're seeing similar things" playing out in Denver, where two moderates — Kelly Brough and Mike Johnston — are in the runoff for mayor, Hagedorn notes.

What's next: Mobolade will be sworn in on June 6 and replace outgoing, termed-out Mayor John Suthers.

  • Mobolade tells us his first priority is surveying the city's roughly 3,000 employees to get on the same page and establish a culture of connection.
  • Also leading his to-do list is tackling the city's challenges with housing affordability and crime, he says.

What we're watching: How he will balance the city's history of upholding conservative values with ushering in a new era as the city's first elected Black, immigrant and unaffiliated mayor.

  • "As a Black leader, I will be pressed or expected to take stands and positions — but I am very clear on who I am and clear on my leadership … that I am putting our quality of life ahead of playing politics."

Spotlight: Get to know Colorado Springs Mayor-elect Yemi Mobolade


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