Colorado Springs residents elect Black mayor for first time

Colorado Springs voters have elected Yemi Mobolade, a 44-year-old Nigerian immigrant who moved to the city in 2010 and emerged as a business and church leader, to serve as the city’s 42nd mayor by a 57% to 43% margin in a runoff election. Mobolade is the first Black person to be elected mayor.

Final vote counting continued Wednesday morning, city clerk officials said, but Republican candidate Wayne Williams has conceded and Colorado Gov. Jared Polis issued a statement congratulating Mobolade, who is registered as unaffiliated and who has cast himself as a bridge-builder committed to prioritizing the quality of life and  “loving your neighbor” over political party interests. About 37% of the city’s registered voters cast ballots in the runoff.

“Today is a new day in Colorado Springs — where our families are put first, where access to the mayor’s office is for the many and not for the few, and where we can be an inclusive, culturally rich, economically prosperous, safe, and vibrant City on a Hill that shines brightly,” Mobolade said in a victory statement Wednesday morning.

Colorado Springs’ position at the base of Pikes Peak and relatively large space – 195 square miles compared with Denver’s 153 square miles – has made the city a fixture among U.S. cities deemed most liveable and the population has grown to more than 483,000. Traditionally conservative with a strong military presence, the city has relied on trans-mountain diversions of water to sustain growth in a semi-arid region. A 2021 ordinance that required would-be developers on newly annexed land to ensure adequate water supplies as a prerequisite before house-building loomed as a factor in the mayoral election.

Mobolade prevailed with a message prioritizing public safety, infrastructure improvement, and overall economic vitality. He supported a Trails and Open Space initiative voters in April approved by an 80% to 20% margin – extending a tax that raises funds for ensuring open space, consistent with city founders’ emphasis on natural beauty. He has pledged to restore parks and recreation funding that city leaders cut following the 2008 economic recession.

Mobolade never has held elected office before.

He came to the United States in 1996 seeking opportunity as an immigrant born in the West African nation of Nigeria, where his mother was a teacher and his father an employee of the global oil company ExxonMobil. He attended Bethel University in Indiana, graduating with a degree in business administration and computer systems, before earning a master’s degree in management and leadership at Indiana Wesleyan University and a seminary degree at the A.W. Tozer Theological Seminary in California. A married father of three, he helped create and co-owns two cafe-style restaurants in Colorado Springs — the Good Neighbors Meeting House and the Wild Goose Meeting House. He founded a Christian and Missionary Alliance church. He served as a small business development administrator for the city and as vice president of the Colorado Springs Chamber and Economic Development Corporation for business retention and expansion.

He received the most votes in Colorado Springs’ April 4 general election, propelling him into Tuesday’s runoff against Williams, a heavily favored city councilman and political veteran who had served as Colorado’s Secretary of State and as an El Paso County commissioner. The city’s current Mayor John Suthers, a former state attorney general who has led the city since 2015 and was term-limited, endorsed Williams, as did a majority of Colorado Springs City Council members, El Paso County Sheriff Joe Roybal, the Colorado Springs Police Protective Association, Colorado Springs Professional Firefighters, and former mayor Lionel Rivera. Williams had raised far more campaign money. Mobolade relied on a grassroots fundraising effort that drew 1,951 contributions from 1,265 donors, with an average amount of around $395 – compared with Williams’ average donation of $2,784 after receiving $1,066,203 in funds from 331 donors, including special interest groups representing the house-building and real estate industries.

Mobolade said at a recent forum that he intended to be “an agent of good disruption.”

Polis issued a statement late Tuesday congratulating Mobolade. “I look forward to working with the mayor-elect.”

His victory marks the first time Colorado Springs has elected a Black mayor. Colorado Springs’ first Black mayor was Leon Young, who became interim mayor in 1997 following the resignation of Mayor Bob Isaac but was not elected.

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