Early Life and Education
Kelly Brough has been a powerful presence in Denver politics and civil leadership for over two decades. Born in Montana in the 1960s, Brough graduated with a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Montana State University in 1986. She went on to earn her MBA from the University of Colorado Denver in 1989. Her passion for community engagement and public service was sparked during her college years in Denver.
Working for Mayor John Hickenlooper
In 2003, Brough began working as a senior policy advisor for then-Mayor John Hickenlooper. She quickly rose through the ranks to become Hickenlooper’s chief of staff in 2005.
Major Accomplishments as Chief of Staff
As Hickenlooper’s right-hand woman, Brough spearheaded major initiatives that helped shape Denver’s revival in the 2000s. She worked closely with Hickenlooper to develop the 10-year plan for ending homelessness. Brough also led efforts to expand Denver’s light rail system, adding 19 miles of new track during her tenure. Her savvy negotiation skills helped raise over $100 million to support these and other vital projects.
Leading the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce
After six years in the mayor’s office, Brough took over as president and CEO of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce in 2009. She went on to lead the organization for over a decade.
Goals and Initiatives as President & CEO
With the economy still recovering from recession, Brough made it her mission to stimulate job growth and showcase Denver as a welcoming place for business. She launched several high-profile initiatives, including the annual Denver Startup Week. This event connected over 10,000 entrepreneurs and investors to spur innovation.
Accomplishments and Impacts on Denver’s Economy
Under Brough’s leadership, the Chamber championed policies and developments that bolstered Denver’s economy. She helped raise $8 million for the National Western Center, cementing the city’s reputation as a global hub for the agricultural business. Brough also assembled a regional coalition that successfully campaigned for additional transportation funding. This paved the way for critical infrastructure projects. Overall, her tenure saw Denver land among the top cities for corporate relocations and job expansion.
Departure from the Chamber and New Role at MSU Denver
After 12 successful years growing the Chamber’s influence, Brough stepped down as president and CEO in early 2021. She took on a new role as chief strategy officer at Metropolitan State University of Denver shortly after. This allowed her to pursue her passion for empowering a diverse range of students to succeed.
2021 Mayoral Campaign
In April 2021, Brough announced her bid to become Mayor of Denver. This launched a spirited 10-month campaign.
Announcing Her Candidacy and Platform
Brough felt her decades of leadership experience primed her to take the helm of the city she loved. She promised to champion small businesses, address homelessness humanely, and expand economic opportunities. Brough also pledged to add new accountability measures to policing. Her vision hinged on collaborating with community partners to find solutions.
Endorsements and Fundraising
Brough’s long track record enabled her to quickly garner key endorsements from prominent Colorado Democrats. She built an extensive fundraising network during her Chamber tenure, raising over $1 million to fuel her campaign. This gave her the resources to compete in a crowded field.
The General Election and Runoff Loss
In the May 2023 general election, Brough advanced to a runoff against opponent Mike Coffman after no candidate achieved 50% of the primary vote. The race remained neck-and-neck leading up to the June runoff. Ultimately, Coffman eked out a narrow victory over Brough with 51% of the vote on June 6, 2023.
Aftermath and Reflection
Despite falling short, Brough was proud of the solutions-oriented campaign she ran. She thanked her supporters and urged unity moving forward. Though she lost this race, Brough’s impact on Denver remains formidable.
Legacy and Impact on Denver
Through her extensive career in Denver politics and policy, Brough left an indelible mark on the city.
Lasting Influence on the City’s Direction
Brough’s leadership helped guide Denver through major changes and economic growth from the early 2000s through the 2020s. The light rail expansion, National Western Center, and other projects she championed have become cornerstones of Denver. Her work empowered business, social, and community efforts that shaped Denver’s rise.
Empowering Women Leaders in Denver
As the first female CEO of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, Brough also opened doors for other women leaders. She served as a high-profile role model and supported women entrepreneurs through Chamber initiatives.
What’s Next for Kelly Brough?
Though her 2021 mayoral bid fell short, few expect this to be the last that Denver sees of Kelly Brough. She remains well-positioned to continue impacting the city through business, education, and nonprofit roles. Brough’s passion for service and skilled leadership will surely benefit Denver for years to come. Her legacy cements her standing as a transformative figure in Denver’s recent history.
Kelly Brough has dedicated over 20 years to serving the Denver community and driving impactful initiatives. From spearheading major projects under Mayor Hickenlooper to guiding the city’s economic growth as Chamber CEO, her influence and vision have been instrumental in shaping Denver’s direction. Though she lost her bid to become mayor in 2021, Brough’s impressive career exemplifies effective leadership and a commitment to collaboration. She will certainly remain a force in civic and community circles as she finds new ways to elevate Denver.
Q: What positions did Kelly Brough hold under Mayor John Hickenlooper?
A: Brough served as a senior policy advisor and later chief of staff to Mayor John Hickenlooper from 2003-2009. As chief of staff, she was Hickenlooper’s right-hand aide and led major initiatives.
Q: How long was Kelly Brough the CEO of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce?
A: Brough served as president and CEO of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce for 12 years from 2009-2021. This cemented her as a key business leader.
Q: Why did Kelly Brough decide to run for Denver mayor in 2021?
A: After decades of public service, Brough felt her experience prepared her to lead the city she loved as mayor. She wanted to collaborate with the community to drive solutions.
Q: What were some key planks of Kelly Brough’s mayoral campaign platform?
A: Brough campaigned on supporting small business, addressing homelessness humanely, expanding economic opportunity, and adding accountability to policing.
Q: What is Kelly Brough’s legacy in Denver politics and leadership?
A: Brough played a major role in Denver’s growth over 20+ years through light rail expansion, the National Western Center, empowering women leaders, and more. Her influence on the city remains substantial.