Wellington E. Webb was born in 1941 and was Denver’s first African-American mayor. He served as the mayor of Denver from 1991 to 2003, for a total of 12 years. The South Platte River Corridor Project was one highlight during his years in office. The South Platte River Corridor Project involved residential and commercial redevelopment and reclamation of the park land along the South Platte River in central Denver. He was also mayor at the time the Denver International Airport was built.
When Wellington Webb made his bid for mayor of Denver, he was a relatively unknown candidate. To get his face and name out there as a Democratic candidate for mayor, he began his “Sneaker Campaign.” He walked door to door throughout a large portion of Denver to accomplish his goal. He logged 210 miles on foot over one three-week period. During this time he spent more than 40 nights in various parts of the city in the homes of his campaign workers.
Wellington E. Webb was not only Denver’s first African-American Mayor, but he was also the first African-American to run a city government that was once in the firm grip of the Ku Klux Klan. To become mayor he beat out six white candidates and a popular black contender. He won 58% of the vote in the runoff election to become mayor. He is one of only a few African-Americans elected to run a predominantly white, large city.
He briefly sought the office of chairman of the Democratic National Committee in late 2004, the only African-American candidate to run for the DNC chairmanship. He dropped out of the race in late January 2005 to endorse a fellow candidate.
In 2002, Denver completed the Municipal Office Building, which they named The Wellington E. Webb Municipal Office Building in honor of Mayor Webb. The municipal building houses some forty municipal agencies and divisions from the City and County of Denver. The office of the District Attorney is also located in the building.
Wellington E. Webb chose politics as a second career choice when he was turned down by Denver Public Schools. He served in the Colorado State Legislature for four years, from 1973-1977. Until 1980, he worked for the Carter Administration as the regional director of the U. S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, presiding over a three billion dollar budget, which affected nearly 3,000 social services programs in six states.
In 1980 when the Carter Administration was voted out, he lost his job but was soon appointed as Executive Director of the State Department of Regulatory Agencies by Governor Richard Lamm, making Wellington E. Webb the only black in the state cabinet. His wife, Wilma Webb, has served also 12 years as a State Representative.