It's my great honor to endorse the candidacy of James Mejia as the next mayor of Denver.
Almost 30 years ago, I asked the people of Denver to imagine a great city. I did so standing in the middle of the Central Platte Valley near Confluence Park. I challenged the people of Denver to think about a great city by embracing a unique way of reinvesting in the city, to move our economy forward and create jobs. I said that we needed to start in this place called the Central Platte Valley. To my surprise, most people had no idea what I was talking about. Now, 30 years later, we recognize the benefits of this extraordinary development in Lower Downtown Denver with new jobs, housing, sports venues, restaurants and excitement. It is now time for a new, 21st century vision for the city of Denver.
James Mejia, in my opinion, reignites that vision and that passion to move Denver forward again. It is time for new strategic investments, especially with the challenging economy and the critical budget decisions that have to be made. We have done this before. We did this when I was mayor in the late 1980s and in the 1990s. We can do it again. We can make budget cuts and simultaneously make strategic investments in our economy. It is a question of leadership, one that requires a mayor with experience. It will require a mayor with vision, and a mayor with a steady hand.
While I have great respect for the many fine citizens who are running as Denver's next mayor, and there are many, I also have a sense for truly exceptional leaders, and that's why I am supporting James Mejia.
When you are going to be mayor of Denver, you have to demonstrate that you are a person of record and of accomplishment. Look at James Mejia's record and look at James Mejia's accomplishments. When he was manager of Denver's Department of Parks and Recreation under Mayor Wellington Webb, he cut the budget by 10 percent two years in a row while at the same time expanding more park land, an extraordinary accomplishment. Then, Mayor Hickenlooper turned to him and asked him to build the new Justice Center. It was done on time and on budget. A $425 million project with over 1,200 beds and 35 courtrooms, a one-million-square-foot project led by James Mejia, that was finished on time and on budget. That's a record of accomplishment. By the way, it received national awards because it was so well done.
Before that, James worked in the Office of Economic Development where he helped provide loans to small businesses in Denver and created hundreds of jobs that stimulated our economy, another record of accomplishment. James also has international experience. We have said for some time we want Denver to become more of an international city. James Mejia worked for three years to secure the last nonstop, international flight to DIA from Mexico.
We talk a lot about education. James Mejia was elected to the school board by nearly 60% of the vote in a city wide election. While on the school board, he helped create new schools and found a way to save taxpayers dollars, a record of accomplishment.
James Mejia is the founding CEO of the Denver Preschool Program. As a result of James' leadership, 15,000 children in our city are now receiving early childhood education. I predict these children are going to graduate from high school and go on to college, a record of accomplishment for James Mejia.
I could go on about the tremendous track record of James Mejia in building, managing, and investing on behalf of Denver. But I want to talk more about his personal life. His is an extraordinary story of the American Dream, representing values that we as citizens hold so dear. James' mother picked beets in Northern Colorado as a young-lady. She found a way to become the first member of her entire family to go to college. His father was the first member of his family to go to college. Together, these extraordinary Americans had 13 children. All 13 went to college, and they did so with a family that had modest income, a father who was a teacher, a mother who was a daycare provider. This is the story of a man of principle, a man who believes in hard work, perseverance and ethics, and a belief that in this great country, you can do anything you want if you work hard and you believe in yourself. I believe these are the values that we need in the next mayor of Denver.
James went to Notre Dame, where he earned his B.A. He received a Masters of Business Administration at Arizona State University, and then earned a Masters of Public Administration at Princeton University, as a Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs scholar. The more I think about James, the more I believe he is far more prepared to be mayor of Denver than I was back in 1982!
Most importantly, our next mayor has to be someone who understands our city. James is a Denver native, born and raised in the city, having all the passion one could have for community and serving Denver.
We stand at the site of the next phase of development of the Platte River, Sun Valley. Not too far from here, I, like he, stood in a somewhat challenging part of the city urging the people of Denver to think about becoming a great city. Today, I'm honored to endorse this extraordinary man, James Mejia. I endorse James because he has a vision for Moving Denver Forward, and he is ready to lead. I ask the people of Denver, every Denverite, to support this accomplished and proven leader and to place in him the same confidence you placed in me in 1983, and help us move the City of Denver forward, once again.
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