I-70 opponent Tony Pigford enters Denver City Council election

Tony Pigford, an educator who has been closely involved in the Interstate 70 and Olympics opposition, will run for an at-large seat on the Denver City Council.

(Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

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Tony Pigford outside of his home, March 27, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)  election; copolitics; denver; denverite; colorado; kevinjbeaty;

Tony Pigford outside of his home, March 27, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Tony Pigford, an educator who has been closely involved in the Interstate 70 and Olympics opposition, will run for an at-large seat on the Denver City Council.

Pigford, 45, is the dean of students at The Boys School of Denver and a fourth-generation resident of Denver. His last campaign, he said, was a successful run for school president at Thomas Jefferson High School.

Now, he says, he’s been driven to run by growing discontent over the city’s rapid development. His platform will include many of the issues that have defined the opposition to Mayor Michael Hancock’s administration, including skepticism of the city’s development boom and accompanying infrastructure projects.

“The rapid growth that we’ve seen has benefited a few folks. It’s benefited corporations, developers, people who are affluent. But as this growth has occurred, it’s widened the equity gap,” he said.

“The poor are poorer, there’s more homeless, our education and opportunity gap especially among students of color has widened. Our senior population on fixed income hasn’t benefited from the growth.”

He names the proposed expansion of Interstate 70 as a major issue, saying that the highway should be rerouted to the north instead of widened in Denver. “I think it’s, to a degree, another brutal cycle of environmental racism. You’ll have eminent domain, more displacement of low income residents of color in particular,” he said. He also is opposed to the city’s potential Olympic Games bid.

Pigford said that he got his first taste of Denver politics volunteering during the initial campaign of Council President Albus Brooks in 2011. He also worked on a nonprofit with Brooks, but their relationship has since grown distant, he said. Pigford now is supporting Brooks’ challenger in District 9.

“We have a wonderful District 9 candidate in Candi CdeBaca,” he said.

Pigford also lives in District 9, the northeast Denver district, but he is running for one of the two city-wide “at large” council seats. He said his experience living across Denver would be an asset in that position.

“I really feel gifted by having connections and knowing wonderful people from all over the city,” he said. As a council member, he said he would be a constant community presence.

“Your council people need to be present, they need to stay in Denver and be at community events and help support community organizations,” he said, singling out Brooks as being “absent to a certain degree.”

The city council has two at-large members; the current incumbents are Robin Kniech and Debbie Ortega. The two candidates who get the most votes in 2019’s local election will take the seats.

Pigford is the father of a 19-year-old son. He is married to an elementary-school teacher at Denver Public Schools. His parents, now in their 80s, still live in southeast Denver.

The candidate worked in sales, hospitality and software before deciding in the 2000s to enter the world of nonprofit and public-sector work. Prior to his current job at The Boys School, he was the student voice and leadership coordinator for Denver Public Schools. He also has worked as a coordinator of philanthropic “giving circles” in Denver.

Pigford’s roots in Denver stretch to the late 1800s, he said, when his family on both sides came to Denver to escape the racism of the South.

“Me and my family have been running around Denver for over a hundred years, and a lot of us have been trying to make Denver a better place,” Pigford said.