Today, July 28, Denver Film's board of directors announced that it has hired Denver political heavyweight James Mejia as the organization's new CEO.
While Mejia lacks a significant background in the film world, unlike previous CEO Andrew Rodgers, who was brought on in early 2016 and left in April 2019, he has a strong track record in Denver politics and business that could serve the nonprofit well in its fundraising efforts. If Rodgers was hired to draw bigger audiences by programming mainstream classics like Hitchcock films, Mejia has been brought on to lure big donors and build the organization's political profile, while leaving the programming to the strong team that has led the arthouse's creative efforts for years.
“I’ve watched and admired Denver Film’s impact on this community for decades, and I’m excited to bring my skills and experiences to a team of talented professionals as we help grow and expand this organization in the decades to come," says Mejia in a statement announcing the hire. "When the diverse cultural patrons of our community look at their annual memberships and charitable commitments, I want Denver Film at the top of their list, right up there with the Denver Zoo, Art Museum, the Botanic Gardens and the Museum of Nature & Science.” Mejia adds that he'll attempt to grow the organization into a Scientific and Cultural Facilities District Tier I-sized group, which would help rake in massive amounts of sales tax-generated revenue.
Mejia, who ran for mayor of Denver nine years ago, has worked in both the public and private sectors over the past three decades. Most recently, he's been managing partner of Pan American Business and owned a business and political consulting firm. His résumé also includes stints as president and CEO of the Denver Preschool Program; project manager for the building of the Denver Justice Center; member of the Denver School Board; manager of the Denver Department of Parks and Recreation; deputy director of the Mayor's Office of Economic Development and International Trade; executive director of the Agency for Human Rights and Community Relations; and president and chief operating officer of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
Mejia, who will begin in his new position on August 10, arrives at the organization during a difficult time, with the Sie FilmCenter and Film on the Rocks shut down over the coronavirus, some budget cuts in the works and others looming. Still, the organization has managed to offer fresh programming, even through the shutdown, on a new Virtual Cinema platform.
Despite the turbulence at Denver Film, Mejia's view of the future is upbeat.
“After some very high-profile and significant challenges and successes in my career, I’ve had the opportunity to spend the better part of the past decade running a business where I’ve enjoyed premium flexibility of my time to raise my kids and bring our family to a point that I can now jump back into the fray of running one of our city’s major cultural institutions,” he notes.
The search for a CEO was national, and the board was wowed by Mejia's vision for the organization.
“James impressed our search committee, our board and our staff the way he has impressed our business, political and cultural communities throughout his career,” says Kevin Teng, chair of the Denver Film board of directors and the CEO search committee, in the announcement. “He defines commitment and dedication, and his accomplishments and proven reputation, as well as his vision for how Denver Film and its programs can expand to impact even larger, diverse audiences, pushed him to the forefront of what was a very competitive field of candidates. Our board was unanimous in approving his appointment, and we’re excited to welcome him to our Denver Film family in the weeks ahead.”
Britta Erickson, who has served as the interim executive director of Denver Film and will continue in her role as director of the Denver Film Festival, says she's looking forward to working with Mejia.
“From his work behind the scenes to playing a leading role, James is a highly respected and proven collaborator and leader in our community that delivers an understanding, appreciation and vision for Denver Film and the opportunities we have to help further define our city’s cultural influence,” Erickson says in the announcement.