Awards and Honors

Mayor Hancock Named a Public Official of the Year Thanks to Peak Academy

When we reported on Peak Academy, a city-government initiative that teaches employees at all levels of government to rethink their jobs to eliminate waste and deliver better service, we mentioned that the program has earned a number of accolades. It adds another today: Mayor Michael Hancock has been named a Public Official of the Year by Governing magazine, thanks in part to Peak.

The magazine names eight to ten recipients of this award annually, honoring public officials at the state and local levels who have had positive impacts on their local communities. Past recipients include Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley; William J. Bratton, for his work as police chief in Los Angeles; and Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, back when he was mayor.

As for Mayor Hancock, Governing is effusive in its praise of his Peak Performance initiatives: "As of June, the city claimed more than $15 million in savings from ideas proposed by the roughly 5,000 academy graduates who work for the city," Governing writes. "The program combines process improvement and behavioral nudge techniques to shorten customer wait times, reduce waste and generally improve the quality of government services."

When we interviewed him for our story, Hancock told us, "It’s really very basic. Invest in your employees to be the innovators and to make continuous improvements. If you want to get better, that’s the best tool.”

The magazine also commends the mayor’s efforts to lift all city constituents in the midst of Denver’s growth. It cites his work with affordable housing, for which he passed a ten-year, $150 million initiative to build 6,000 affordable housing units. “Denver has grown by 10 percent over the last five years,” Hancock says. “That puts pressure on housing accessibility. This will allow us to leverage additional resources. People want to live here, and this helps us provide that inventory.” The funding goes into effect in 2017.

And Governing called out Hancock’s focus on social programs, like permanent tuition assistance for pre-kindergartners of low-income families; according to Hancock,  these programs are meant to bolster residents who spend too much of their take-home income on rent or mortgages. In addition to pre-K support, he cites the city’s Financial Empowerment Centers, which provide low-income families with financial coaching.

Hancock also points out that his Office of Economic Development recently revamped workforce training programs to go far beyond resume updates. “We’re helping people gain skills to be competitive in the 21st century,” he says. “We’ve partnered with the private sector, community colleges and non-profits.” Trainings now include a digital literacy certification and personalized vocational training.

From here, Hancock says he plans to focus on making sure Denver’s rising tide lifts all boats. “We have to stay focused on this until I feel comfortable that this work lasts beyond me,” he says. “We’ve been prosperous in Denver, but we have to make sure no one is left behind. We have to continue to institutionalize these efforts and best practices. This is not a hand-out but a hand up. We want to bring others along.”

The mayor picks up his award tonight in Washington, D.C.
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Laura Shunk was Westword's restaurant critic from 2010 to 2012; she's also been food editor at the Village Voice and a dining columnist in Beijing. Her toughest assignment had her drinking ten martinis and eating ten Caesar salads over the course of 48 hours. She still drinks martinis, but remains lukewarm on Caesar salads.
Contact: Laura Shunk