EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH CASA MAGAZINE
Michael Hancock grew up in Denver and has dedicated his career to serve the community. Hancock is seeking reelection as the Mayor of Denver. He is basing his bid on his achievements of the past 8 years and the ambitions plans he has for the next four years. Hancock has clear to deal with gentrification and homelessness. During this interview, the Mayor of Denver revealed he is a man of faith and he profoundly admires his mother. “I invite the community to enjoy Denver during Christmas,” he said.
Photo/Menny Salas Photography
A public servant
Michael Hancock was elected councilman in 2003 and eight years later he became the mayor. Before his work in politics, Hancock worked at the National Civic League and the Denver Housing Authority to empower communities and improve the quality of life of low-income families. He later became the youngest president of the Urban League of Metro Denver, that serves African Americans and other residents in Denver. Hancock is also a deacon at the New Hope Baptist Church.
What are you most passionate about outside of politics?
Michael Hancock: Outside politics, I am passionate about my family and my faith.
If you were not in the public sector, what would you be doing?
MH: I would stay on the public Service, not necessarily to be elected. I think there is nothing more honorable than doing public service. Maybe, I would go to ministry somewhere.
Love for sports
Hancock has confessed he is a fan of local sports. He is frequently seen at the Colorado Rockies games at Coors Field. Hancock has also enjoyed the victories and grieved the defeats of the Denver Broncos. Many say his heart is orange and navy blue, the colors of the team at Mile High. During the football season of 1986, Hancock used to wear the uniform of “Huddles,” mascot of the Denver Broncos. Hancock used to earn $25 per hour for doing that job.
What are your thoughts as a fan of the Rockies?
MH: This was a phenomenal season. The Rockies have an exciting team that we see is improving. This year, we began to see a team that deserves to be champion.
Do you have a message to the Broncos?
MH: Win! It is a team that has a young talent. But, at this moment, it is a team without a leadership that harms the opposing teams. The Broncos need to find that leadership.
Do you have any anecdotes about your time as “Huddles”, the Broncos mascot?
MH: Going to the Super Bowl, Broncos vs. New York Giants, in 1987, I was delayed getting to the stadium. The bus I took had gotten stuck in traffic. When I got there, someone had my uniform. I was offered the opportunity to stay on the sideline and enjoy the game. I said, ‘My God, it is the Super Bowl. I should be in the mascot uniform. I want my uniform.’ It was important to me. I got the guy to take the uniform off and I put it on. I was “Huddles” for the Super Bowl 1987.
His love for music
Hancock lives with his wife and children at a Green Valley Ranch neighborhood. He is the father of three children: Alayna, Jordan and Janae. His wife is Mary Louise Lee, known singer and actress in Denver. For over 20 years, Lee has developed an extraordinary career, with national and international engagements as an actress and vocalist. Hancock affirmed he has no talent to play instruments or to sing, but he enjoys music.
Do you have any musical or artistic abilities?
MH: No. I would like to sing like me wife. But I cannot sing.
What kind of music do you have in your phone?
MH: Mostly gospel. But I also listen to old school, R&B, Motown music. When I want to relax, I play “The Temptations”.
What apps do you regularly use on your phone?
MH: I use “Pandora”, “Amazon Music”, “Apple iTunes”. And besides music, I use sport apps. I like the Broncos’ app and Fantasy Football League’s apps.
Hancock was born in Fort Hood, Texas. At a young age, his whole family moved to Denver. He grew up in the Northwest neighborhoods of Denver and he is a proud alumnus of Manual High School, which is part of the Denver Public Schools. His twin sister and he are the youngest children of the family. His parents divorced when they were six years old, and therefore his mother and his uncle Jim were the two people who influenced him the most during his childhood.
Tell us the name of a person that you admire?
MH: I would start with my mother. I am the youngest of ten kids. She raised us as a single mother. First, because my dad was on the military; and secondly, because they divorced when my twin sister and I were six years old. She gave us a life. Image a single mother on the seventies trying to rent a house for ten kids. I admire her tenacity. She always had a great spirit. Never I saw her overwhelmed. Her spirit was indomitable. She never quit.
Who would be someone that has had a big influence in you?
MH: Certainly, my mon and my uncle Jim. He assumed the father figure in my life. He made sure I was in church. He made sure I was in school every day. He always looked after what I needed. If he had not been there, I do not know what I would have become.
Hancock grew up in the Northwest neighborhood of Denver, where a high number of Hispanics live. He confessed mayo f his classmates were Hispanic, and therefore he has had a good immersion in the Hispanic culture and food, so popular in Denver.
Who makes the best burritos in Denver?
MH: Denver Burrito Company.
And Green Chile?
MH: Curtis Park Creamery. It has been there forever.
Hancock began his administration of the city at a time when there was almost a two-digit unemployment rate. The city had not hired any new police officers or firefighters for years, and the municipal services had decreased during the time of the recession. He has worked to create thousands of well-paid jobs for residents of Denver; has increased the opportunities for small and minority businesses; and has helped create conditions for big companies from a variety of sectors to get established in Denver.
Imagine that you have to talk about Denver to a stranger, at an international conference in Oslo. How do you describe Denver?
MH: That’s easy. I just did it in Japan. I represent one of the most vibrant and emerging cities and economies in the world today. It is a city that is projected on the global scene. Denver is globally competitive in terms of attracting tourism and industries. The city has a highly trained human resource. Denver is one of the favorite destinations to live, work, have fun, start a professional career and raise a family. We are the gateway to the West and we are the center of the universe.
Can you elaborate on that thought?
MH: Find a globe. You will see that Denver is in the middle.
What do you think Denver would look like in 10 years?
MH: In ten years, Denver will transform primarily because we are about to have a cascade of investments on infrastructure. These investments will exceed one billion dollars. When we reach the next decade, the National Western Center and the 9th and Colorado Blvd residential and commercial development will be built and operational. By this time, the expansions of the Convention Center and the Airport will be completed. It will be a city that people would want to visit and be part of.
Hancock was the first councilman to be elected as Mayor of Denver. That means, that throughout the sixteen years he has been working for the city, he has acquired ample knowledge of the variety of issues the city has. Hancock believes the right thing to do is to study the causes of displacement for residents in traditional neighborhood, or gentrification, to identify the best tools to deal with this phenomenon. Hancock also has some ideas to serve the homeless population in Denver.
What is your approach to “gentrification”?
MH: Gentrification is something that does not happen overnight. It is the systematic result of a lot of things happening in and around a community. What we are trying to do is to intercede in that process along the way. And if we can help protect some of the vulnerable residents of Sun Valley, Westwood, Five Points and Montbello, that is what we hope to do. I appointed the Neighborhood Equity and Stabilization Team led by Senator Irene Aguilar to use the right tools to defend those residents.
What about the “homeless”?
MH: Homelessness is a complex issue to deal with. A cookie-cutter approach does not work in this case. In Denver, we do not allow encampments for homeless people, such as the one that exists in Los Angeles. In that city there is an encampment that extends 30 blocks. It is the most unhealthy and unsafe thing that I have seen in my life. But, in Denver, we allocate $50 million dollars every year for the homeless. We have opened three shelters and give shelter to about 325 people. Also, we provide health services and temporary jobs for them.
If you were re-elected for the third time, what legacy do you want to leave?
MH: I would like the “Aerotropolis” to be operating. And I want people to say ‘Wow! Hancock launched that idea in 2010.’ On the other hand, I would like to have contributed to make Denver a city with multimodal transportation. And more important, I want the city to remain inclusive and open to immigrants.
Christmas in Denver
What plans do you have for Christmas?
MH: I usually take a break during Christmas to be able to spend time with my family. Christmas was an important season for me when I was growing, and it is still now. This season is also an important moment for my wife. The family is going to visit us. And my plan is to relax and disconnect for a few days.
What do you recommend for people to do in Denver this Christmas?
MH: I want to encourage people to enjoy the city. Visit downtown for one night. Walk from Union Station to one of the cultural venues or restaurants on the 16th Street Mall. Go for dinner at Cherry Creek Mall or Five Points restaurants. It is not necessary to leave Denver and the state of Colorado during this vacation time.
“Denver is a city that harnesses inclusion and equity and acceptance for all people – no matter if you’re African American, Latino, Asian American, Native American or white, LGBTQ+ or straight, man or woman… and, yes… we will continue to be a city that welcomes immigrants and refugees.” Michael Hancock