The governor I most remember as a teenager was Stephen McNichols. He was in office when I left for military service and served out his term the year before I returned.
His brother Bill had a long run (1968-83) as Mayor of Denver and was in office when my career took me there in 1975. I was also there when Mayor McNichols in his 1983 bid for reelection, led a slate of candidates that included a little-known politician by the name of Federico Peña.
Peña, under the motto “Imagine a Great City,” went on to win and established a new standard for creativity, dynamism, excellence and leadership that transformed Denver into a world-class city before going on to serve in the Clinton Administration as Secretary of Transportation and Secretary of Energy.
Pat Schroeder was the Congresswoman from the 1st District (1973-97) for most of my career in Denver. She was replaced in 1997 by Diana DeGette, another very capable leader for the District.
The great story that is the political stewardship of Denver both in the Mayor and Congressional seats in the last part of the 20th Century is a model for the kind of leadership we need again today. The City finds itself in the middle of a demographic shift back into its center that is being addressed with a chaotic revitalization programs that looks nothing like the “Great City” that was imagined a generation before. This together with the convention center construction scandal as examples of the current state of affairs leaves us with a sense that there is tiredness, complacency, a lack of creativity and corruption in our political leadership.
But just like in 1983 when we were asked to imagine a great city, there is a new generation of Latino leaders coming forward to answer the call. Among them is Lisa Calderon that is challenging Mayor Michael Hancock who is running for reelection.
Calderon is a Latina daughter of a Mexican and African America parents. Her own personal story is of poverty, setbacks and triumphs that led her to undergraduate and graduate degrees including a law degree and a doctorate in education.
Her leadership in the non-profit community, her advocacy for those being left behind both in the city and in the migrant fields informs her qualifications for stimulating us toward the greater good. She represents a new generation and a new vision of how things should be.
Another great Latina, Crisanta Duran, the 38th Speaker of the Colorado House of Representatives has announced her candidacy for the 1st Congressional District and challenging Diana DeGette. Although relatively young, Crisanta brings a wealth of experience as a political leaders that knows how to work both sides of the aisle with effective results. We are in dire need of leadership with a 21st Century vision and one that can productively navigate the great divide that is afflicting Congress.
History has taking our country and our state to a point where the Latino community is offering its best assets for leadership. It is past the time for the community to be used as a silent punching bag designed to generate political points for this or that side.
The Latino voice has always been there but it has been mostly used to consolidate its demographic and aspirational gains as it organizes to be the key leadership group in the 21st Century. In Colorado, the time has come for the Latino community to again reveal its strength and commitment to the great American ideal of self government and self determination.