Ken Simpson: A Denver mayor's race profile

With John Hickenlooper serving as Colorado's governor, we know Denver will have a new mayor this year, and the race is wide open. To introduce you to the players, we're offering profiles of official candidates. Next up: Ken Simpson.

"I believe that one person can make a difference," says Ken Simpson. "And I think I can help people."

Simpson grew up in an Air Force family, "and I lived all over," he notes. "I was born in Germany on an Air Force installation, and I've lived in England, Kansas, Michigan and New York." He moved from Germany to Denver in 1983 because his sister was living here at the time "and I'd always heard good things about Denver" -- things that have kept him here for over a quarter of a century.

Over the years, Simpson has attended several local colleges, including the University of Denver, where he majored in public policy; Metropolitan State College, where he earned a bachelor's degree in criminology; and the University of Colorado Denver, which awarded him a master's degree in public administration.

At present, Simpson works for the City and County of Denver in the city services department, also known as 311 Operations. "I purposefully took the job to learn about the city and how all the departments work," he says.

The knowledge he's gained has been nudging him toward a mayoral run for quite some time. "I've been thinking about it since 1999," he says.

His three major issues? Jobs, crime and education.

Regarding the first of these subjects, Simpson says he's been frustrated by watching other cities attract major employers while Denver has been unable to attract even a big-box retailer in or near downtown. "Mayor Hickenlooper is a nice man, and he was a good mayor," he maintains, "but Atlanta, Minneapolis and Austin always seem to be getting companies to come to them, and I don't know why. We need to do something about that."

His first step: "I would get together with the economic development department, meet with people who are the experts in that, and then call the CEOs of companies and their PR departments personally. I'd get them to come to Denver and show them what a wonderful city we have and tell them we want to get jobs here."

He's also got his eyes on the Denver Police Department and local law enforcement.

"I have issues with officers working at DIA, where there's little or no crime, and in the meantime, our citizens are getting beaten up in LoDo with no police presence," he says. "We need to shift those officers from DIA to lower downtown."

Meanwhile, he believes complaints about the use of excessive force by some members of the DPD and the sheriff's department in the Michael DeHerrera and Marvin Booker cases, among others, need to be addressed. "There should be leadership changes made," he stresses. "Hindsight's always 20-20, but after viewing the [DeHerrera] video that the manager of safety [Ron Perea] resigned over -- well, common sense should tell you something went awry there. Someone should have been fired or hearings held right from the get-go."

Finally, education.

"There are some excellent schools in Denver, just like anyplace," he says. "But most of the schools in DPS have systemic problems. They currently have a 47 percent dropout rate, and if corporate America lost 47 percent of their customers, heads would roll and changes would be made."

Simpson acknowledges that "the mayor doesn't run the schools. But he can set the agenda, be a leader. And you've got some schools with million-dollar Astroturf on their football field and other schools that can't even afford books. Because digital books are cheaper than regular books, I'd contact the CEO of Amazon and get him to make a donation of Kindle readers for students in Denver. And I'd talk to students about the importance of education.

"We're operating on a one-hundred-year-old service model based on an agricultural economy, where people got off during the summer to work on the farm," he continues, adding that "I think the school year should be extended -- and there should possibly be longer hours, too."

Tomorrow is the deadline for mayoral hopefuls to turn in petitions. The required number of legitimate signatures is 300, and Simpson says he's collected 629. Once he's an official candidate, he plans to upgrade his web presence to supplement the Facebook page linked above -- but he won't try to compete with better-known politicos when it comes to raising funds. "It shouldn't matter how much somebody brings in," he believes. "I'm not going to serve the people who donated money to me. I'm going to serve the citizens of Denver, Colorado.

"For two years, I got up at five in the morning and worked a full shift at 311, then went to school at night to get my master's degree. I sometimes did it on weekends, too. A lot of weeks, I didn't have a day off. And that's the kind of determination I'm going to bring to the mayor's office."

Look below to see a 9News video featuring Simpson's pitch to voters.

More from our Politics archive: "James Mejia: A Denver mayor's race profile," "Doug Linkhart: A Denver mayor's race profile," "Michael Forrester: A Denver mayor's race profile," "Michael Hancock: A Denver mayor's race profile," "Danny Lopez: A Denver mayor's race profile," "Chris Romer: A Denver mayor's race profile," "Carol Boigon: A Denver mayor's race profile," "Thomas Andrew Wolf: A Denver mayor's race profile," "Eric Zinn, mayoral hopeful, wants Denver to lose a million pounds," "Gerald Styron, Denver mayor candidate, once threatened to bring a gun to Westword," "Paul Noel Fiorino: A Denver mayor's race profile," "Dwight Henson: A Denver mayor's race profile," "Theresa Spahn: A Denver mayor's race profile," "Jeff Peckman: A Denver mayor's race profile," and "Vincent Macieyovski: A Denver mayor's race profile."

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts