Newly minted Denver Mayor Guillermo (Bill) Vidal’s story is the kind that gives you goose bumps.
He is a Cuban immigrant who, as a child, was sent with his brothers to the United States and lived in an orphanage until their parents rejoined them four years later. He grew up to become an engineer and career civil servant, wrote an autobiography along the way and, most recently, has attained the role of Denver’s mayor.
Vidal was sworn-in as Denver’s 44th – and first immigrant – mayor on January 11 to complete John Hickenlooper’s term after he was elected governor of Colorado. Vidal joins only two other Cuban-born people to serve as mayor in a state other than Florida.
Vidal spoke last week during a joint meeting between the Chamber’s Public Affairs Council and Club 20, a Western Slope-based business advocacy group. The Chamber hosts a joint meeting with Club 20 annually to not only maintain the important relationship between our organizations, but to ensure we have a strong grasp of the perspective of businesses on the Western Slope and across the state.
Noting that, 49 years ago, he was living in an orphanage and didn’t speak English, Vidal said, “If someone had told me back then that I would one day become the mayor of Denver, I would have believed it to be a miracle of biblical proportions.”
While working as former Mayor John Hickenlooper’s right-hand man, Vidal published an autobiography about immigrating to Colorado, Boxing for Cuba. His knowledge of government and politics, combined with his personal experiences, give him a unique and special perspective on the impact political action has on the lives of citizens.
He has served Colorado and the City of Denver for decades, first at the Colorado Department of Transportation and later as deputy mayor and manager of public works for the City and County of Denver, making his mark in areas ranging from “the mousetrap” on Interstates 25 and 70, to completing the first statewide multi-modal transportation plan in Colorado’s history to the successful completion of the 2008 Democratic National Convention.
Vidal said he will “make sure that nothing falls through the cracks,” working to ensure necessary social services remain available and that capital projects are expedited to create jobs and economic impact in the community.
“Every single one of those projects is a job for somebody,” he said, adding that he has encouraged each city employee to view him or herself as a job creator.
This week, Mayor Vidal announced a task force composed of 21 community, business and civic leaders who will develop options to address the city’s long-term budget challenges, in hopes of providing Denver’s next mayor with a strong starting-point to continue leading Denver’s economy back to vitality. That task force includes some well-known Chamber members: former board chairman Rob Cohen of IMA and current board member Rich Lewis of RTL Networks, who was recently named 9News Leader of the Year by the Denver Metro Chamber Leadership Foundation, 9News and the Colorado Leadership Alliance.
“That work can’t start soon enough,” he said. “And the business community has to be part of the discussion on how we fund government.”
I know I speak for business as a whole when I say that we wholeheartedly look forward to working together with Mayor Vidal to steady and strengthen our city. His charming and warm personality, coupled with his thoughtful humanity, are sure to help him make another wonderful mark on our community.
Congratulations, Mayor Vidal.