Last September, longtime Denver television and radio personality Gloria Neal spoke frankly about what she referred to as a one-in, one-out quota for black journalists at local TV stations. Months later, she's got a new gig, but not in broadcasting. She's been named the director of public affairs for the office of Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, who has just launched his re-election bid.
"I am certainly not someone who saw this coming," Neal admits, "but I'm glad for the opportunity."
For many years, Neal has been a familiar presence on the Denver media scene; she's worked at several major radio stations, including KOA, AM-760, Jammin' 101.5 and more, as well as television outlets Fox31 and CBS4. (She blogged for the Denver Post's Politics West website for a time, too.) But in 2015, she relocated to Atlanta to anchor for CBS46, a major network affiliate. That job disappeared in December 2016.
"I didn't leave the station," Neal told us last year. "It was a forced resignation" about which she declined to elaborate because she was considering a lawsuit against the outlet. She subsequently moved back to Denver after her husband, radio veteran Amani Ali, landed a gig as chief transformation officer for Triunity Engineering & Management. As of late summer, she was working as a consultant and emcee for events here and in Atlanta under the auspices of her company, GloKnows Unlimited, LLC. But she hadn't gotten any bites from local media outlets — something she chalked up to the pending litigation and what she saw as shrinking opportunities for black TV and radio specialists.
Today, Neal says, "there have been other opportunities in broadcasting and related fields since coming home to Denver from Atlanta, but they just didn't feel right. This was something that felt right and that I think will really, in many ways, use all of my skills to a varying degree."
The director of public affairs position is newly created, and during her first weeks on the job (she started last month), Neal has been busy helping to establish its template.
"My role is about strategic messaging, and it's very forward-facing," she explains. "While the mayor is being the mayor, it's sometimes very difficult to get the message out about all the things he's doing for the City of Denver. So one thing I'll be doing is talking about what he has done and what he will do."
In addition, she continues, "the mayor gets a lot of invitations for speaking engagements, and he can't do all of them. So I'll be picking up some of that slack and speaking on his behalf about what's germane about what the mayor is doing for that particular audience. I've already spoken at a number of events, and I've got more scheduled. So whether it's representing the mayor as part of the Womxn's March [scheduled for Saturday, January 19] or reading to kids at a school or being at groundbreakings or talking with folks working at organizations that help neighborhoods concerned about losing their culture, those are the messages I'll be carrying."
In addition, Neal is an adept communicator on social media, as seen in this Facebook video shared to mark the swearing in of the new Congress.
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In Neal's view, comparing the diversity of the average Denver TV station to Mayor Hancock's administration is "apples and oranges. But there is definitely a concerted effort directed by Mayor Hancock that says we have and value diversity. We have females, males, blacks, whites, LGBTQ folks and everything in between. And if you have people at the table from a diverse background, you come up with a terrific set of ideas."
Neal isn't on the campaign side of Hancock's team, but she certainly talks him up. In her words, "Even when I wasn't living in Denver, I supported Mayor Hancock, because I saw what he was doing, and what he was trying to do. For me, real leadership is not about being perfect. None of us are perfect. But a real leader is someone who falls short, rectifies that and moves forward. If you make mistakes and you harm people and offend people and it's a true offense, you step up. And that, to me, is one of the attributes of a true leader, and that's what I see with Mayor Hancock."
As for her own career trajectory, she acknowledges that "this has been one hell of a journey, and I'm proud to say I'm continuing on the journey. People ask me, 'Does this mean you're done with TV?' And I say, 'I don't know,' because when man plans, God just cracks up laughing."
However, she goes on, "I believe everything I've done has prepared me for what's next. I won't put myself in a box and say, 'This will be my next.' But it's an honor to serve in this administration for the folks of Denver, because this is home for me."