Calhoun: Wake-Up Call

Michael Hancock has a new communications director in time for one-year anniversary

Happy anniversary, Mayor Hancock. A year ago, Michael Hancock defeated Chris Romer in the Denver mayoral runoff, capping an unlikely campaign that saw Hancock polling at just 10 percent two months before the May 3 election, then trouncing Romer in the runoff. But where were the big stories taking note of the one-year anniversary?

That one-year hook once automatically grabbed media attention. There were big stories twelve months after John Hickenlooper was elected mayor nine years ago (not to mention big stories after his first year as governor), and big stories after year one for Wellington Webb and Federico Pena, too.

Not so for Hancock. Last week's anniversary of the 2011 election came and went with little notice.

This lack could be linked to just how much the mainstream media has shrunk over the last few years -- not just in employees, but in actual outlets.

But it could also reflect the fact that, from the start, Hancock's biggest challenge as mayor has been getting his message out. Case in point: News that he'd picked a new police chief leaked out of Louisville, and Hancock introduced Robert White to Denver at a hastily called press conference the next day.

Hancock's first communications director, Wil Alston, stepped aside for a gig doing communications for the city's finance department. A hunt for his replacement stretched on for months, with a committee of pros sifting through resumes -- and getting a resounding "no way" from people they approached about the job.

But on Monday, a new communications director will start in the mayor's office -- and it looks like a win-win. Rowena Alegría lost her job at Viva Colorado in a round of Denver Post layoffs; she's got the experience and smarts to handle not just the reporters left in this town, but the people in City Hall who need to get their message out.

And she still has time to get that one-year anniversary story for the day Hancock actually took office: July 18, 2011.

Here's the official announcement of her appointment:

DENVER -- Mayor Michael B. Hancock today appointed Rowena Alegría as Director of Communications. Alegría recently served as Editor and Publisher of The Denver Post's Viva Colorado and has nearly 20 years of experience in the fields of journalism and communications.

"Ro is an ideal addition to our team, bringing an invaluable blend of communications experience, knowledge of our City and civic wherewithal," Mayor Hancock said. "A daughter of Denver, Ro is a well-respected community leader and journalist. She shares this administration's values of collaboration and compassion, and will help build on our work to create a more open and inclusive City of Denver."

Since 2006, Alegría has been leading efforts to make Viva Colorado the most influential multimedia news outlet for local Latinos. Through her leadership and management, she transformed the publication into an award-winning and respected news outlet within the City of Denver and the Latino community.

As Director of Communications, Alegría will oversee all media relations and craft and execute the administration's internal and external communications. She will begin on Monday, June 18.

"Mayor Hancock and I are cut from similar cloth. I, too, come from humble beginnings, and yet my family has accomplished great things through hard work and determination," Alegría said. "I am honored to join the Hancock Administration and work side-by-side with him and his dedicated and talented team. As a Denver native, I could not be more proud to serve a mayor who sees my hometown as a world-class city where everyone -- everyone -- matters."

Alegría served in several capacities over her initial 12-year career with the Denver Post, including copy editor, assistant copy desk chief and assistant business editor. She managed the Post's award-winning Tech Team during the boom and bust of the Internet and supervised coverage of the Qwest takeover of U.S. West, as well as directed business news coverage in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.

Following her time at the Post, Alegría started her own communications consulting group where she developed and implemented communications strategies for a variety of organizations, including the National Endowment for Financial Education and Denver Public Schools.

As Editor and Publisher of Viva Colorado, Alegría re-launched the paper in a bilingual and digital format. The Viva team won numerous awards, including being named the Best Spanish-language newspaper website in the nation by Editor & Publisher magazine.

Alegría is active in the Denver community, serving as president of the board of Servicios de la Raza, as a member of the Hispanic Advisory Council at Florence Crittenton High School and on planning committees for various community events. She graduated from Lincoln High School and earned her Bachelor of Arts degree from Metropolitan State College of Denver, Magna Cum Laude.

How will the mayor celebrate his first year in office? Read Michael Hancock's bucket list for 2012 here.

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Patricia Calhoun co-founded Westword in 1977; she’s been the editor ever since. She’s a regular on the weekly CPT12 roundtable Colorado Inside Out, played a real journalist in John Sayles’s Silver City, once interviewed President Bill Clinton while wearing flip-flops, and has been honored with numerous national awards for her columns and feature-writing.
Contact: Patricia Calhoun