Denver City Council will become more diverse next month as new members join

9 women, 6 Latinas, first openly queer man will be part of the council
Denver City Council Members July 2023
Posted at 5:23 PM, Jun 11, 2023

DENVER — Not only will a new mayor take office next month for the first time in 12 years, but several fresh faces will join the Denver City Council.

Six newly elected council members will be sworn in on the same day as Denver Mayor-elect Mike Johnston.

It will become one of the most diverse councils the city has ever seen.

The 13-member council will be comprised of nine women, including six Latinas.

“First of all, I thank the Latinas that came before me because I feel like they were great leaders. And that's why Denver continues to choose Latina leaders,” said Flor Alvidrez, who was elected Tuesday to represent District 7 in south central Denver.

Alvidrez, who has spent the last few years working in real estate and who ran her family’s construction business before that, grew up in the district.

“Growing up in District 7, growing up in Athmar Park really shaped the person I am,” said Alvidrez. “The most important thing at the end of the day is our values as a city. I think our values are inclusivity. People want to see diverse voices, and they want to see feminine leadership as well. They want to see kindness and softness. I think what we need more than anything right now is healing.”

Alvidrez will replace Councilman Jolon Clark, who decided not to seek re-election.

Her runoff opponent, Nick Campion, dropped out of the race in April to focus on becoming a father.

Alvidrez says one of her top priorities will be improving mobility for people in her district.

“[When] your district is cut in half by a highway [I-25] and a railroad and a river, it really causes inequities on one side versus the other,” said Alvidrez. “Healing that mobility is a big part of my campaign. Councilman Clark has started a lot of that work, so making sure that those projects are seen through so that people feel safe walking and biking, and traveling around our city and in our district in particular.”

Alvidrez says she will also prioritize improving air quality and making housing more affordable.

As he mentioned in his victory speech Tuesday night, Darrell Watson will become the first openly queer man to serve on the city council.

“You made history tonight,” Watson told supporters at his watch party.

Denver City Council will become more diverse next month as new members join

Three years ago, Watson retired from working in finance.

He now owns his own consulting firm.

He has also chaired several nonprofit boards in Denver.

He defeated incumbent city councilwoman Candi CdeBaca for the District 9 seat by a 22-point margin (61 to 39%) after a combative campaign.

In a recent debate, CdeBaca accused Watson of “scolding, belittling, and verbally abusing” her throughout the campaign.

She also accused him of taking her ideas.

“His best ideas are adaptations of mine,” she said. “He hasn't actually achieved what he thinks he has, and he can't and won't deliver on what he's promising because he's beholden to big money power brokers and the status quo.”

Watson countered, accusing CdeBaca of sowing division on the city council.

“I think most folks who have been paying attention to District 9 would say that that's correct,” said Watson. “My opponent has publicly on social media attacked fellow council members while voting on issues on the dais of city council. That level of personal attack, that level of ideological division, there's no place for that in municipal races for Denver City Council.”

Watson describes himself as a progressive.

“A progressive that has values that bring folks together,” Watson told Denver7. “And I always explain to folks progressiveness is not only ideology. You can't have progressive action without progress on issues.”

Shontel Lewis, who was elected to the District 8 city council seat in northeast Denver by about 350 votes, is also openly queer.

Lewis previously served as a vice president at the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless.

She also served on the board of the Regional Transportation District.

She campaigned closely with CdeBaca and Shannon Hoffman, who unsuccessfully challenged Councilman Chris Hinds in District 10.

All three were endorsed by the Denver chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America.

“I can work with anyone,” said Lewis, when asked if she anticipated running into any problems with more moderate council members. “So, I'm excited about the opportunity to not only work with the new mayor but also to work with his administration, to work with folks inside the city and county of Denver, to work with our stakeholders to the communities that elected each one of us to serve on the city council.”

Lewis said she will focus on trying to make housing more affordable.

“I would say my priorities are first assessing within the district and the communities that I represent, what are the actual needs, and figuring out how we can look at the needs of individual communities and figure out where we can find some alignment to work on those issues,” said Lewis. “I might need to partner with agencies or partner with other council members than what the mayor does in order to be able to do so.”

The three other new council members are Sarah Parady (at-large member), Serena Gonzales-Gutierrez (at-large member), and Diana Romero Campbell (District 4).

Council members will be sworn in on July 17, the same day as the new mayor.

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