Will Chan is running for an at-large City Council seat with Denver’s missing voice in mind

If elected, Chan would be the first Asian American to sit on the council dais.
4 min. read
At-large candidate Will Chan stands in LoDo. Feb. 9, 2023.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

As of Wednesday, there are seven Denverites competing for the two open City Council at-large positions, and one of those candidates is Will Chan.

Chan, who works for the city's economic development office, grew up in west Denver and has lived in the area for most of his life, save for a few years on the East Coast, where he went to college.

Chan has worked for the city for over a decade, starting with the Denver Public Library. He said his work focused on immigrant and refugee program services, where he would travel to different Denver libraries, helping new residents with citizenship and English courses but also after-school programs, economic networking and intergenerational programs where older residents could discuss their cultures with younger program members.

Chan said the programs were developed to make newcomers feel welcome, which is "dear to his heart" because his parents both immigrated to America. His father emigrated from Hong Kong and his mother was a Chinese refugee from Vietnam.

If elected, Chan would be the first Asian American to sit on the council dais.

At-large candidate Will Chan stands in LoDo. Feb. 9, 2023.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

"Growing up here, I didn't have any role models that looked like me," Chan said. "As a nation, I think there's only 2% of APIs in elected office. We are a part of the American fabric and we have a voice but it's a voice that has not been at the table... Representation does matter. Win or lose, if I am able to show the next generation and maybe break through that bamboo ceiling for others after me...just to be the first to make that attempt, it's very important for our future generations."

Listening to voices that aren't always heard in Denver is Chan's main campaign priority. Those voices include immigrants but also marginalized communities and those who sit in the "middle," whether that be in economic or social class.

Chan said as Denver continues to grow, some residents are being left out of the conversation.

"Everyone's going to talk about housing, transportation and crime... but I think in each of these policy items, we need to think about who is missing from the conversation," Chan said. "That's why the at-large position is appealing, it's looking at the gap. We have large policies that are trying to enact the greatest impact for the majority of our population but you still have to look at the missing piece, the donut hole in each of these policy areas...How do we create different options for Denverites through our policies that address those missing pieces? We need to evaluate who is benefiting from our programs and understand that current policies are antiquated. How can we modernize our policies to address the different voices at our table?"

At-large candidate Will Chan stands over Union Station. Feb. 9, 2023.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

Chan said another major campaign pillar is economic mobility through assisting small businesses and helping the BIPOC community establish an economic standing. Chan said his parents ran a restaurant at a strip mall, and watching them work hard gave him insight into how small businesses can become the lifeline of neighborhoods.

He said small-business owners, self-employed workers and independent contractors are vital to the city's economy but are missing from economic conversations.

For now, Chan said he's in "listening mode," gathering feedback from community members on how he can address the hot topic policy issues of housing, transportation, crime and climate change.

He has his own ideas, including inclusionary zoning, more workforce housing and better infrastructure for cars and bikes, but Chan said his ideas will flow with what the community wants, especially forgotten communities.

"As I move forward with my campaign, I'm thinking of being the 'other,'" Chan said. "Growing up in affordable housing, navigating for my parents outside of our household, all these systematic structures in healthcare, education and economics, those are my lived experiences. Denver is growing up...Knowing that that growth is happening, how can we do it in an intentional way...I know what it's like to be on the outside. Those frustrations and challenges I had growing up here, we can do better and I know we can do better."

Editor's note: This story has been updated with the finalized candidate list that will appear on the 2023 municipal election ballot. Those candidates are Tim Hoffman, Dominic A. DiazSerena Gonzales-Gutierrez, Travis Leiker, Sarah ParadyPenfield Tate IIIJeff Walker and Marty Zimmerman.

Recent Stories