John Hickenlooper grew up outside of Philadelphia, the youngest of four children. He attended Wesleyan University and received a bachelor’s in English and a master’s degree in Geology.
Hickenlooper moved to Colorado in 1981 to pursue a career in geology. In 1986, a market shift cost John and thousands of other geologists their jobs. Out of work for two years, he decided to start his own business and, using a library book on how to write a business plan, opened a brewpub in an abandoned warehouse district. Hickenlooper worked with other small businesses to create a dynamic, new neighborhood that became a national model for urban revitalization. As the brewpub succeeded, so did the community.
In 2003, Hickenlooper ran for Mayor of Denver, in the first campaign of his life. A dark horse candidate who never ran a negative ad, he surprised everyone and won in a landslide. As Mayor, he eliminated a $70 million budget deficit without layoffs or major service cuts, reduced crime, instituted police reforms and helped transform the city into a destination and major economic hub. In 2005, with an approval rating of 92%, Time Magazine rated him one of the 5 best big city mayors in America.
In 2010, Hickenlooper became the first Denver Mayor elected Governor in 120 years. He was re-elected in 2014, after running an entirely positive campaign — a trademark of his time in public service.
In the past eight years, Colorado jumped from 40th in job creation to the number one economy in the nation. As Governor, Hickenlooper created an innovative workforce development program called Careerwise. This partnership between educational institutions and business offers apprenticeship programs in a dozen different industries to high school students. To date, it has been modeled by 20 other states.
Hickenlooper brought industry and environmentalists together to reduce methane emissions — a major contributor to climate change. The regulations they developed became the model for California and Canada and are considered the gold standard across the United States. He also led Colorado’s recovery effort through major fires and floods, re-opening roads, bridges, and communities in record time.
Hickenlooper stood up to the NRA to pass landmark gun safety legislation, including limits on high capacity magazines and universal background checks. He also expanded Medicaid and opened a high quality state health insurance exchange program called Connect for Health Colorado, establishing an insurer in every county in the state. Today, nearly 95 percent of Coloradans have healthcare coverage.