The city of Denver, Colorado has gone a long way from its humble beginnings as a frontier town, founded by a group of pioneers looking to make their fortune in the gold bearing peaks of the Rockies. As many other settlements from the Front Range area, Denver was built to serve as a base for the gold miners which flooded the area of Pikes Peak, in search of the coveted golden nuggets. But something set apart Denver from the other towns and settlements and helped it avoid becoming one of the 500 ghost towns found today in Colorado. Many natives of Denver consider that the Mile High City escaped this fate as a result of the quality of the people who founded it, run it and worked for its relentless development. The mayors of Denver have played an important part in Denver’s success story, and a few of them are particularly regarded as great men of state, who left an enduring influence in the history of the Mile High City.
The first elected mayor of the city of Denver, Charles A. Cook, served a term of two years, from 1861, when Denver was incorporated into Kansas Territory. After a succession of short terms of some less preeminent political figures, in 1872 Joseph E. Bates is elected mayor. His name is tied with some important achievements for the fledging town such as the establishment of enterprises like the Denver Brewery, Denver Pacific Railroad and the Denver Smelting and Refining Works. Bates would go on to serve another term in 1885.
In this period, the importance of Denver as a political, administrative and economic center steadily increased, culminating with the establishing of Denver as the state capital of the newly formed state of Colorado, in 1881. The last three decades of the 19th century brought along an explosive growth of the city population, which went from 5,000 inhabitants to more than 100,000, at the turn of the century. The mayors of Denver battled with the rampant problems of the city such as crime and lack of regulation. Men like Thomas McMurry or Plot Roggers steered the destiny of the city through the difficult times which followed the silver depression of 1893.
Robert Walter Speer served as a mayor of Denver for three terms, starting from 1904. A boulevard in modern day Denver is named in his honor, as an expression of gratitude for his efforts to beautify the city, by building parks, the Denver Museum of Nature and Science and the City Auditorium.
During the time of the New Deal, mayor Benjamin Stapleton completed some important projects in Denver such as the Civic Center and the Denver Municipal Airport.
Other significant figures who served as mayors are Thomas Currigan and William McNichols, during the booming period of the 1970’ and 1980’. The first Hispanic mayor and the first African American mayor in the history of Denver were Frederico Pena and Wellington Webb, respectively who lead the town towards further innovation and economic development. Since 2003 the city is ran by John Hickenlooper, a former entrepreneur, who pushed a series of administrative reforms and rallied the urban renewal movement of Lower Downtown.