Politician: Wellington Webb

February 2007

This month, former Denver Mayor Wellington Webb releases his memoir, Wellington Webb: The Man, the Mayor, and the Making of Modern Denver. It details his path from near-Manual High School dropout to his come-from-behind win in the '91 mayoral election, riding on his monthlong "Walk" across Denver. After three terms as mayor, Webb left office and opened Webb Group International, a consulting firm.

  • I think that life has a funny way of setting forks in the road.
  • You have to have an education to be competitive, to be legitimate.
  • It's important to have an appreciation of history and literature and art and culture. It says something about who you are.
  • I did want to go to college. But I didn't connect the dots very well.
  • The story of Achilles always struck me—whether you want to live a short, glorious life or a long, ordinary life. When I was young, I would have taken Achilles' position. Then, as I got older, I was worried about the saying that if you die young people say you missed your calling. I'm happy with my choice.
  • When I was 12, Denver was a small town, run by a very elite group. It was de-facto segregated, with exceptions. There was no bustling downtown. We were a town then. Now we're a big city, still with some positive small-town traits.
  • In Colorado—unlike the East Coast or the South—it's not about economic and social pedigree. It's what I like to refer to as a Western ethic. If you get hired to lead a wagon train, they're going to hire you because you can cut it. They don't care if you're black, white, they don't care if you're old, a man, or a woman. If you can cut it, you're hired. And if you can't, you're fired.
  • If they don't know you're running, they won't vote for you.
  • I'd go into places where campaigning was prohibited. I'd go into a VFW and they'd say, "Well, you can't come in here campaigning." And I'd say, "That's fine; I came in to get a beer." And I'd sit down and have a beer, and 10 minutes later we'd be talking about the campaign.
  • I'm glad I did the Walk. If we had had money, we would have run a traditional campaign and lost. By virtue of not having money, we got creative and we won.
  • In the West, if you give your word, you keep it.
  • My first visit to the White House was special. My father had not graduated from high school and here's his son in the Lincoln bedroom.
  • The wealthiest 1 percent doesn't need our help. The middle-class working people need our help.
  • I get impatient with opportunities lost.
  • My mustache has only been cut off once, when I was in junior college. The razor slipped, and I had to cut the other half off.
  • We have to be sure that government operates for everybody, not just for a few.
  • Elected officials always try to downplay what they're really like, but they're like prize-fighters. You have to have a certain innate confidence level in yourself to get out there and be on display.
  • I thought George Bush had swagger the first time I met him. But so did George Custer, and I don't want to follow him either.
  • Until you're put in the position where you have to defend your values and issues, you're really not sure who you are.