Denver has had 45 mayors since its inception in 1858 and all 45 have been men.
Maybe Anna Burrell could change that.
Earlier this month, Burrell announced that she was running for mayor, adding her hat to a pool of five other candidates.
“I can’t not [run] anymore,” Burrell said. “We need people who are normal people to run for office and be in office. We have this massive divide between ‘normal people and politicians’ and yet politicians are the people who shape our everyday lives.”
Burrell is the co-founder of Twiggs & Co., a sustainability consulting and implementation firm that works with businesses and nonprofits to help them achieve a “triple bottom line,” which focuses on the social and environmental impacts a company generates along with their profits. Basically when companies focus on “people, the planet and their profits” they create a better work environment for employees and foster new relationships with outside organizations, which in turn can improve profits.
Burrell said through her work, she’s had the opportunity to meet with stakeholders working on various social projects throughout the city. While in these meetings, she would hear great ideas on housing issues, crime and how to aid those experiencing homelessness.
But once those ideas were presented to the city, they would wither away.
Burrell said stakeholders are the “normal people,” Denverites who are already attempting to make a difference in their communities.
“There’s so many amazing solutions out there,” Burrell said. “I’ve sat on several councils and I’ve watched really good initiatives get to the mayor’s office and then get either underfunded, not funded, disappear into the void or something like that. These are proposals that are stakeholder built, community driven, they have an environmental upside, they have a social upside, they have an economic upside and yet there’s something in the administration that turns the other direction.”
She added that there’s a disconnect between folks already doing the work and city officials implementing policies. That disconnect, she continued, divides residents and leaders — causing distrust.
So, she’s looking to change that.
The first step for Burrell is to engage with residents and “listen to communities that have already come up with solutions.”
From there, Burrell said her main focus will be on environmental sustainability, housing and food insecurity. That means utilizing construction waste that can create more housing which could include more urban farms for affordable access to food. Burrell said all of those things are connected and if officials focus on solving these issues holistically, policies could be easier to implement.
Burrell’s other focus is to have cordial competition. Burrell said trash talking and negative ads do nothing but cause further divide when essentially candidates all want the same thing.
“We have to change how we show up in politics,” Burrell said. “At the end of the day after the election is over we still have to work together.”
She said the goal with cordial competition is to foster relationships so that — win or lose — the needs of Denverites, whether that be housing or better transportation, are still met.
“When I win the mayor’s office that means I get to put funding towards all of these amazing projects and shift how the city functions to match the people who live in the city more,” she said. “If I don’t win the mayor’s seat, I would have … still been able to grow the momentum and use the platform to amplify the voices of “normal people” who are already doing very important things and give hope to people who are concerned about these very important things.
“That’s a win-win.”