2023 Denver mayoral race: Candidate Kelly Brough shares her platform

Posted at 3:23 PM, Feb 20, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-22 17:26:59-04

Kelly Brough has been the first woman to take on many of her previous jobs and hopes to add Denver mayor to the list. She was the first female president and CEO of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce for a dozen years until she stepped down last September. Brough has worked within the Denver government as an analyst for city council and chief of staff to then-Mayor John Hickenlooper. She has also served on various boards, including Habitat for Humanity of Metro Denver, Denver Zoo and Visit Denver.

Brough qualified for the Denver Fair Elections Fund, according to city data. At the start of February, she had received $848,872.47 in campaign donations. Of that, $395,208.27 is from the Fair Elections Fund.

March 22 update |Response to the shooting of two deans at East High School in Denver:

Our hearts are once again broken by news of another shooting at East High School. Our entire community is praying for the full and speedy recovery of the faculty members who were injured. But words of condolence are not enough. We must take immediate action to ensure the safety of our students and faculty. That means every option should be on the table including SROs, which in this case today, may have made a difference. What we are doing isn’t working, and our families deserve better. At the bare minimum, those schools and communities who want SROs should have them immediately.

Denver7's Chief Investigative Reporter asked Brough about her plans if elected as Denver's next mayor. Watch their conversation or read a transcript below.

2023 Denver mayor race: Candidate Kelly Brough shares her platform

Tony Kovaleski: Introduce yourself. Tell us your story.

Kelly Brough: Well, hi, I'm Kelly Brough. I'm running for Denver mayor. And I'm running because the combination of my personal background and my professional experience, I think, have prepared me uniquely for this moment. I've never run for office before, and I won't be running for another. I'm running for mayor because I have experience running this city. I was John Hickenlooper's chief of staff when he was mayor. I've been the CEO of the Chamber of Commerce. I've been the head of HR for the city. I've even worked for all 13 members of the Denver City Council. I think we have real issues and real opportunities today. And I'd love the chance to work with you to address them.

Tony Kovaleski: Insiders tell us the four most important issues in the race right now are crime, homelessness, housing and transportation. Rank them from most important to least important and please share why.

Kelly Brough: These are hard to rank, but I'm gonna share based on the order I hear from residents throughout the city. Probably No. 1 is concern about homelessness and encampments — both the living conditions of people who are unhoused, and how it's impacting the neighborhoods where people are living. It's probably public safety is next or community safety. People are concerned about some of the highest crime rates we've seen in decades. Housing affordability, absolutely right up there, so I'll put it No. 3. And then fourth, I'll say transportation. But they're interchangeable.

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Tony Kovaleski: OK. So, follow-up question based upon what you said, which was your No. 1 issue is homelessness. What is your pledge to voters on how you will address it? And how might that be different than the other candidates on the ballot?

Kelly Brough: Yeah, so probably most important, I've made a commitment that we end unsanctioned camping, and I'll do it in my first year. And so what this really means is today — what we do is people who are living throughout our city, we sweep them down the block to the next neighborhood. And we do it all again a few weeks later, and that's not working. It's not only inhumane, but it's a waste of resources and ineffective. So instead, by having safer locations people can go to — will improve everybody's living conditions immediately. And how I'll do it is I'll maximize the use of existing beds and shelters that we have today. I'll sanction camping sites, so people can be in safer locations, and will build the housing shelter that we need immediately while we have those temporary sites.

Tony Kovaleski: Like many cities, Denver has financial needs. If elected, what would you prioritize and where might you trim?

Kelly Brough: Yeah. This one's critical. The city's budgets are about $3.75 billion. The general fund itself is about $1.7 billion. I think we need — we have some opportunity every time we build that budget to do a careful look. When I was chief of staff to John Hickenlooper, this is absolutely how he ran the city: a careful look every year about where are you allocating resources. And are you getting the results you expect. I think our $254 million that we're spending on HOST, our housing, which is a department that didn't even exist when I was chief of staff, really requires a careful look to say, "Are we getting the results we want with those dollars?"

Tony Kovaleski: As you know, Denver is a wonderfully diverse city. If you were elected by the people of Denver, will you make a commitment to ensure that your administration reflects this diversity?

Kelly Brough: Yes. I've done it in every position I have been in. The best teams — I'm going to hire the best talent and the best talent is diverse. It comes from many different backgrounds, and you make better decisions, and you have a better team. I've always done it. I'll do it again.

Tony Kovaleski: After this election, Denver City Council has the potential for a significant change. How are you planning to work with a new council if you're elected? And what will that relationship look like?

Kelly Brough: You know, I think I'm unique in this regard, because in my career, I've worked for all 13 members of the city council. I have deep respect for the legislative branch. And when I was the head of HR, deputy chief of staff and chief of staff in the Hickenlooper administration, we had a philosophy and approach for working with council, and it was great. We saw ourselves as partners. And while I deeply respect the checks and balances of our government, the reality is we share the same goals, we have the same constituents and needs. And I think there's huge opportunity to work together on those issues, and help council serve in leadership roles to accomplish the work.

Tony Kovaleski: Here's an interesting one, if you could ask one other candidate one question, which candidate? What is that question? There are 16 others on the ballot with you. So, which candidate would you ask a question and what is that question?

Kelly Brough: I don't have an answer for this one.

Tony Kovaleski: Give you some time to think. You got some time.

Kelly Brough: If I have one question I could ask another candidate, I suppose I would ask — we have a number of candidates, so I'm not going to pick an individual. But we have a number of candidates who have served —

Tony Kovaleski: I'm going to push back. Others have tried this. And I've asked them, because they want to ask one question to the entire group — I'm giving you some time here. But there's got to be one candidate where you want to know something. Which candidate is it? And what do you want to ask them?

Kelly Brough: Yeah. I think I would probably ask, maybe, candidate Calderón how — when she thinks about public safety — how she frames her view of what we need to be doing in our police department, and what that insight comes from. Because it's vastly different than how I see it and I would try to understand it better.

Tony Kovaleski: That's fair. And we know that was not an easy question.

Kelly Brough: Yeah.

Tony Kovaleski: This is a chance to get to know you behind the scenes a little bit. What's the last book you read and why?

Kelly Brough: Yeah. So first, I'll say I'm dyslexic. And a lot of people think because you're dyslexic, you don't read. I love to read. I'm just not as fast as you may be. But the last book I read this last year was called "The Personal Librarian." And I am telling everyone to read it. It's based on a true story of JP Morgan's personal librarian. And it's a beautiful story about an incredibly successful woman. And she was a woman of color, but no one knew it. She was passing. And I think it gives you great insight into her life, her impact, but also the challenges she faced because of that.

Tony Kovaleski: What do you do for fun?

Kelly Brough: I ride my bike a lot. I commuted to work for 30 years on my bike, and it is the place I get my head straight.

Tony Kovaleski: So, in about 90 seconds, now we're gonna give you a chance for a closing statement. What do you want voters to know about you? Please talk to them.

Kelly Brough: You know, we talk a lot about what we're going to do. But I think how we work is just as important. So I suppose what I would share with you is how I go about the work if I were your mayor. How I do it today is I look for vastly different views, why people see the world so differently, and I bring them together. I look at data and use experts. I try to learn from our history and learn from other cities, so we can make decisions to really solve problems. I think this is why five city mayors in the metropolitan area have endorsed my homeless plan. They agree we can't make progress on that issue unless we all work together. I think it's why former manager of safety and police officer Al LaCabe and Denise Maes, who's a former executive of the ACLU, and Bill Ritter, a former district attorney and governor of the state of Colorado, have all endorsed my public safety plan. They agree we have to come together. That's just what I would do as your mayor.