Environmental activist Ean Thomas Tafoya is running for mayor

“This is a people-powered campaign. The only way we win is by getting out and doing the work.”
3 min. read
Ean Thomas Tafoya speaks during a mayoral debate at Regis University. Feb. 9, 2023.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

The Denver mayoral race has a new candidate to add to its list.

Health and environmental activist Ean Thomas Tafoya announced Thursday that he'll be running for mayor in 2023.

"I've been in public service for over 20 years," Tafoya said. "I've been on dozens of community boards and worked on more than a dozen successful ballot initiatives. It's a huge opportunity that we have in 2023, in particular with the fair elections fund, to make a real difference in the way we lead the city."

Tafoya is a fourth generation Denverite who grew up in the Barnum and Cole neighborhoods, which are "at the heart of his environmental justice work."

Tafoya founded Headwaters Protectors, which provides water and trash services to people experiencing homelessness. He's currently the co-chair of the Colorado Environmental Justice Action Taskforce and the state director of GreenLatinos, a national nonprofit that addresses environmental injustices that affect Latinos.

Through his environmental work, Tafoya worked on the Denver Green Roof Initiative and is currently spearheading the "Waste No More" ballot initiative, which would require all businesses such as housing complexes, restaurants, hospitals and hotels to provide compost and recycling pickup services. State law currently prohibits the city from collecting compost and recycling at large apartment buildings and commercial properties. Construction companies would also be required to dispose of materials in a more environmentally-friendly way.

Ean Thomas Tafoya, co-campaign director of the Waste No More campaign, and other supporters, submitted about 17,000 signatures to Denver Elections on Monday, August 16, 2021, to get their measure on the November 2022 ballot. In part, the measure calls for owners of apartment buildings, condos, restaurants, hospitals, hotels and sporting arenas, to provide compost and recycling pickup services. And it would require recycling and composting at all permitted events.
Hart Van Denburg/CPR News

"It's 30 years of plans that haven't been put into action," Tafoya said. "[The initiative] takes on the commercial sector for recycling and composting. It ensures that everyone in an apartment building has access to recycling in composting...and the final component is the requirement of recycling from construction companies."

Climate and environmental changes are one of Tafoya's concerns. The others include public health and safety, housing, transportation and regional collaboration.

Tafoya said he wants to expand transportation to Red Rocks and local mountain parks. He also wants to restore "dignity" to public transit users by having benches and shelters at bus stops, creating more public restrooms, water fountains and hand washing stations.

Tafoya joins four other candidates, including civil rights activist Terrance Roberts, in the run for mayor.

"This is a people-powered campaign," Tafoya said. "The only way we win is by getting out and doing the work. From now until next April, I hope people join us in the work. For 'Waste No More' to Headwaters Protectors and all the other great initiatives that we've been working on for years."

Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated where Tafoya grew up. We regret the error.

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