Olivia Ruiz-Knott Organizer, Host
Ivan Ruiz-Knott Graphic Design
In January of 2023, Ivan and I found a piece of paper slipped under our door inviting us to a Meet & Greet with someone running for Denver Mayor. The event was to be held the next evening in another unit in our building.
The Denver Municipal election was coming up in April, and since I have claimed an interest in local politics—and since this was so convenient we had absolutely no excuse—we went. In a unit a few floors down, we found some snacks, three eager campaign staff, about a dozen curious attendees, and one hopeful Denver mayoral candidate: Mike Johnston.
We liked him immediately. He seemed like an obvious choice for leading our city. Ivan was ready to knock on doors for him right away, but since I’m much more reasonable and meticulous I knew that we had to do our due diligence and hear what the other candidates had to say for themselves first.
But there were 16 more candidates running for Denver mayor. If I wanted to meet them all in person, I’d have to chase them down all over the city, or else subscribe to all their newsletters and social media accounts and try to notice when they were hosting something downtown. But going to Johnston’s event had been so easy. It made me wish I could just get all the other candidates to come to my building, too.
So after getting buy-in (and help) from some friends and neighbors, I decided to host a series of Meet & Greets in our building with as many mayoral candidates as would agree to come. We called the series “Candidates at The Barclay,” and eventually extended the invitation to the candidates running for Denver City Council District 10, where our building sits. I wanted to provide myself and my building’s residents (and their friends) an easy way to become informed about and engaged with the upcoming municipal election, and I wanted any potential Mayor or Councilperson to consider my building as an important part of their constituency.
Between February and April 2023, we hosted 21 events:
Fourteen* of the 17 candidates for Mayor accepted our invitation, and all four candidates for City Council District 10. Each spent an hour with our residents, sharing their vision and plans for our city and answering our questions. We also hosted two watch parties for debates, and just before Election Day, we held a “Ballot Study Hall” for those of us that need to make an appointment to get things done, and then scheduled a small march to the nearest ballot drop-off box.
*One candidate dropped out of the race just before his appointment with us, so we technically hosted 13 mayoral candidates. Only three declined or never responded.
My roles in this project included conceptualizing the events, scheduling out all the event slots, reserving the space, inviting and all following email and phone correspondence with 21 candidates and their staff, coordinating helpers, arranging for advertisements in our building and the buildings nearby, creating and managing a group on Meetup.com, corresponding with attendees, and being the up-front host of each event.
I was grateful to delegate snack management to some friends (a pastor I know donated some money from his church’s community engagement budget); many neighbors came early and stayed late to help rearrange, set up and put away chairs; and of course, Ivan generously designed dozens of assets for Meetup Group images, building fliers, slides, and sign-up sheets.
I wondered how I would feel if—after all this work—the person who ended up as Denver Mayor hadn’t participated in our little series. And that turned out to be the case: Mike Johnston was one of the three candidates who declined or never responded. (I’ll give him a pass; he had already personally hosted two small events in The Barclay since his mom owns a unit in the building.)
But ultimately, it was meeting Mike Johnston that prompted this whole endeavor, and made me more civically engaged than I have ever been in my life; and what else would you want from a Mayor?