Feature

Who Runs Denver?

April 1999

People tend to underestimate Wellington Webb. When the former city auditor first declared his candidacy for mayor in 1991, the polls put his support at a measly 7 percent. Before long, Webb had spent what little money he had, and the numbers weren’t getting any better. Undeterred, he laced up the sneakers that would become his trademark and began to walk the city’s neighborhoods, meeting voters and building a grassroots groundswell. On Election Day, Denver had its first African-American mayor and the city’s establishment found itself left out in the cold.

Four years later, local pundits declared him a has-been, and a handful of wannabes lined up for a shot at his job. Once again, Webb took to the streets, defied expectations, and won re-election.

Even as recently as a year ago, when 5280 first ranked Denver’s 25 most powerful people, Webb ended up No. 2, behind lobbyist Steve Farber.

So what’s changed in the last 12 months? For one thing, the election of Bill Owens has left Farber and partner Norm Brownstein without their private hotline to the Governor’s Mansion. But even more important, Webb’s accomplishments as mayor have become increasingly difficult to ignore.