Jul 17, 2023 - News

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock makes his exit, passes the torch after 12 years in office

Outgoing Mayor Michael Hancock waves to the crowd during his inauguration ceremony in 2019. Photo: AAron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post via Getty Images

As a kid, Michael Hancock told just about anyone who would listen that he would lead the city one day.

Driving the news: On Monday, he walks away from a lifelong dream realized, as he passes the torch to Mike Johnston after 12 productive and tumultuous years as Denver's mayor.

What he's saying: "I'm so grateful," Hancock said last week at Manual High School, his alma mater, where he served as student president and a historical archive detailing his life is now on display.

  • "It's been the honor of my life to serve as your mayor," he said in his farewell address the day after speaking at his high school.

The big picture: The Hancock administration was dealt a hand no one would envy, leading the city through two recessions, a global pandemic, social unrest, police accountability issues, an opioid crisis, rising crime and rampant homelessness.

  • But pundits say it's the courage it took to rise to those very challenges that will shape his legacy, landing him among "the most consequential American mayors" of his era, former Colorado Senate President Peter Groff said in a statement.

Zoom in: Apart from resilience, the mayor has been credited for his focus on economic development, ushering in major renovation projects at Denver International Airport, the Colorado Convention Center and the National Western Center.

Yes, but: The outgoing mayor promised to reduce homelessness, end traffic deaths and make the city more affordable and diverse.

  • Yet homelessness and roadway fatalities have risen, and the city is "in jeopardy of losing its diversity" because residents of color are being priced out, he recently told the Denver Gazette.
  • Despite his efforts to breathe new life into downtown, the area is still struggling to bounce back from the pandemic.

Of note: He also faced a series of setbacks, including accusations of sexually harassing one of his security personnel in 2019, which nearly cost him his job.

What's next: Hancock says he plans to pursue a position in the private sector and write a book. Archives in his honor are also slated to open in the coming months at Blair-Caldwell African American Research Library and the Central Library.

  • "There are a lot of things I look forward to," he told CBS4. "One of them is waking up on July 18 and not feeling the weight of the city on me. It's an unbelievable honor and privilege to serve but it is also an awesome, awesome burden to make decisions that affect the lives of over 700,000 people."
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