June 18, 1991: Wellington E. Webb is Elected Mayor of Denver, Colorado

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June 18, 1991: Wellington E. Webb is elected mayor of Denver, Colorado. He is the 1st African-American mayor of Denver.

Wellington Webb’s 1991 bid for mayor included his “Sneaker Campaign”, in which he walked door to door through a large portion of Denver, introducing himself as a relatively unknown candidate.

Webb is the former president of the Democratic Mayors and the past president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors and National Conference of Black Mayors. He lectures frequently on civic issues and was a guest lecturer at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. Webb collaborates closely with his wife, former Colorado State Representative Wilma J. Webb.

The Webb family relocated from Chicago, Illinois, to the Northeast section of Denver, where the imposing 6’5 youth became active in sports. He is a graduate of the city’s Manual High School. Webb was an all-conference basketball player at Northeastern Junior College in Sterling, Colorado, in 1960. He obtained his B.A. in sociology from Colorado State College at Greeley in 1964 and his M.A. in sociology from the University of Northern Colorado at Greeley in 1971.

In 1972, Webb was elected to the Colorado House of Representatives, representing his boyhood home in northeast Denver. In 1977, Webb was selected by President Jimmy Carter to serve as regional director of the U.S. Department of Health Education and Welfare. In 1981, Colorado Governor Richard Lamm appointed Webb to his cabinet as executive director of the Department of Regulatory Agencies.

Webb was elected Denver city auditor in 1987, and served until 1991. Webb served as mayor of Denver for 12 years, from 1991 to 2003.

One highlight of his years in office was the South Platte River Corridor Project, involving commercial and residential redevelopment, as well as reclamation of park land, along the South Platte River in central Denver. He was also mayor at the time of the completion of Denver International Airport, started by his precessor, Federico Peña.

In his three terms as mayor of Denver, Webb has focused on four major areas: parks and open space, public safety, economic development and children. Accomplishments during his administration include a record 40 percent decrease in crime since 1991 as unemployment dipped below 2 percent.

Webb’s development projects include the new Denver International Airport, a new sports stadium, expansion of the Denver Art Museum and a new African American Research Library.

Webb was mentioned in the documentary Bowling for Columbineduring a speech by NRA president Charlton Heston. In April 1999, shortly after the high school shootings at Columbine High School near Denver, Heston claimed that Webb had asked him not to come to Denver.

Although he briefly sought the office of chairman of the Democratic National Committee in late 2004, Webb dropped out of the race in late January 2005 and endorsed fellow candidateHoward Dean, who went on to win the chairmanship. Webb was well known as the only African-American candidate for the DNC chairmanship.

●The Wellington E. Webb Municipal Office Building, completed in Fall 2002, was named in honor of Webb. It houses some forty municipal agencies and divisions from the City and County of Denver, as well as the office of the District Attorney.

●In February 2007, Webb published his autobiography, “The Man, the Mayor and the Making of Modern Denver,” (Fulcrum Publishing) co-written by former Colorado journalist Cindy Brovsky.

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