Magazine Feature / People

Councilwoman MacKenzie’s roots run deep at DU

Kathleen MacKenzie’s connection to the University of Denver has a history. The daughter of a DU graduate, some of her earliest memories include skating with her father at the old DU ice arena.

As the second-term councilwoman for south Denver’s District 7—which includes DU and the surrounding neighborhoods—MacKenzie works with constituents on a local level to ensure their voic es are heard in city government and business.

MacKenzie studied English literature and political science at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania. After working as a reporter and union organizer in North Carolina for five years, she returned to Denver in 1986 and settled in the West Washington Park area.

She ran for the city council in 1999, a nod to her long-standing passion for local politics.

“At the time, my neighborhood was undergoing a lot of change—some areas were being developed faster than the neighbors would have liked, and some areas were not being developed at all,” MacKenzie says. “It seemed like I had a role to play.”

MacKenzie hit the campaign trail, walking every mile of the district, which extends roughly from University Boulevard west to Federal Boulevard and from Yale Avenue north to Speer Boulevard. She won the election, taking 75 percent of the vote. MacKenzie ran unopposed in the 2003 election.

As councilwoman, MacKenzie has been involved with a number of local projects, including the redevelopment of the former Gates Rubber factory site. She started an advocacy group, UNCLOG (United Neighborhoods Committed to Light Rail Over Gridlock), which helped achieve voter approval of the light rail expansion project. MacKenzie also heads the city’s Technology Services committee, advocating the use of technology to make city services more efficient and accessible.

MacKenzie is most proud of the development agreement she helped negotiate between the city and DU.

“In 1990, DU was a small institution,” she says. “When Chancellor Ritchie took over, the campus grew by leaps and bounds.

“No one was prepared for the expansion, and the relationship with the DU neighbors reached a very tense level.”

The necessary rezoning of land for the Chambers Center presented an opportunity for DU and the neighborhood to strike a compromise and clearly define campus boundaries. MacKenzie worked closely with DU Neighbor Liaison Neil Krauss to balance the neighborhood’s needs and DU’s needs.

“She was a tough negotiator, but she worked with DU to iron out our differences,” says Krauss. “Kathleen’s perseverance on behalf of the neighbors living around DU and for the city of Denver has left an indelible imprint on the neighborhood.”

MacKenzie says she’s fortunate to live in Denver because it offers big-city amenities but has many neighborhoods that feel like small towns.

“I’m lucky to represent a district where the neighbors are involved and really care about what is going on around them,” MacKenzie says.

MacKenzie currently is studying information systems at DU’s University College. When her term is up in July 2007, she plans to finish her master’s degree and hopes to work building complex databases for governments and non-profit organizations.

“Of course I’ll stay in Denver,” says MacKenzie. “These are exciting times for the city.

“This is a great place to live.”

This article originally appeared in The Source, May 2006.

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