FOX21 will endeavor to profile each of Colorado Springs’ mayoral candidates ahead of the 2023 election.
COLORADO SPRINGS — At 11:30 a.m. on a rainy Sunday in Colorado Springs, Yemi Mobolade swung open the door to Epicentral Coworking and, with a welcoming smile, invited me inside.
Mobolade, recognized around the community for his work as a pastor, his entrepreneurial endeavors – such as the Wild Goose and Good Neighbor restaurants – and his contributions to the city as Vice President of Business Retention and Expansion for the Chamber of Commerce and EDC, and more, is trying something new.
As we talked, members of his latest team began to file into the small conference room we’d chosen to use for our interview. They were preparing, they said, for Monday’s big event – Mobolade’s public announcement of his 2023 mayoral run. Current Mayor John Suthers is term limited.
Mobolade sat directly across from me, dressed in Colorado layers to include a salmon-colored shirt that read “Yemi Mobolade XLII Colorado Springs.” He talked passionately about what brought him to the city in 2010 and his vision for its future.
“I swore I heard God’s voice audibly. The only time in my life,” he said, thinking back to the long drive he made when he left California for the Springs. “He said, ‘Welcome home. Make this home.’”
Now, as he considers the prospect of holding the mayoral office, Mobolade said he thinks the convergence of his business experience and his faith can help push the city closer to its potential.
“One thing just naturally led to the other,” he said.
And Mobolade says he’s seen big changes in the culture of the downtown area.
“I’m proud of the downtown revitalization,” he said. “I didn’t realize that’s what [the Wild Goose] did.” But, he said, other leaders and groups in the community, such as the Downtown Partnership, convinced him otherwise.
“I still see opportunity moving forward,” he said citing his business, economic, and workforce development experience. “I’ve spent the last five years doing that, too.”
And, Mobolade said he’s ready to take on what he sees as Colorado Springs’ biggest challenges. “We’re growing too fast,” he said. “The biggest threat to quality of life is affordability. And when I zero down on that, housing rises to the top.”
In fact, his platform includes economy and affordability, housing and infrastructure, and crime and safety.
“It’s better framed as ‘housing affordability,” Mobolade clarified. “Because…most people think of affordable housing as,” he paused there for awhile. “Poor. I think it can have that connotation. I do think the conversation is broader, but it’s easy to get stuck in the language.”
And we moved from there to talk about one of Colorado Springs’ infamously underserved areas.
“I was in southeast Colorado Springs yesterday, training 14 new entrepreneurs to start their own businesses in the southeast,” Mobolade said. “Thrive Network is an organization that I’m part of. And the mission of Thrive is to revitalize the southeast through entrepreneurship and business development.”
Mobolade said the 14 entrepreneurs signed a “pay it forward” agreement that asks them to “lean in,” to the southeast area by starting their businesses there – and hiring from there, too.
He mentioned a large wage disparity between that area and other parts of the city.
“And whatever success we have in southeast Colorado Springs, we need to take to other parts of the city,” he added.
This isn’t Mobolade’s first foray into the woes of the southeast, during his work for the city he led the Southeast Economic Vitality Regional Leadership Group to have a “collective impact” in those neighborhoods.
“Economic impact is the way to serve underserved communities,” he said.
Part of the problem he sees with the city’s current reach, is simply the location of its government offices.
“Right now we’re located in the downtown core. So by virtue of proximity, people around city government have easier access. I see an opportunity for government to go out and be with other folks, such as out east,” Mobolade said.
And, he said, a lot of growth is happening in north and east parts of the city – and we need to pay attention to that. But he wanted to make one thing especially clear.
“This is really important to me,” Mobolade said. “I’m pursuing a human-centered economy. That’s the way I look at economic development – it’s human-centered. It’s putting the local business owner, the workforce person front and center of the decision-making process.”
But, Mobolade said, his duties as mayor would extend beyond the economy. Another important focus, he said, is in elevating public safety and restoring the community’s trust in public safety and law enforcement.
“I think we can have both,” he said. “I see an opportunity to humanize the badge. And to help reduce the growing crime.”
In fact, Mobolade said, there was a time where he was approached and asked to join the force.
“I got recruited – when I lived in the midwest – to be a cop,” he said, drawing some laughs from his team. “I did! The [deputy chief] who’s now the chief pursued me hard. And he said, ‘You know, Yemi, you’re the kind of leader that I want in this job.”
And, for Mobolade, that offer was bittersweet.
“[It was] the same community that I got [stopped] for running by a cop,” he said. “So I bring that up to say those two things are true of my story. That I would be the model cop and at the same time I did get pulled over. And the challenge is it’s either one or the other and we’re not humanizing both sides of the story.”
But Mobolade said he still stands in the middle, ready to move forward in the right way.
And – on whether the city leans conservative or liberal – he says that’s the wrong question.
“Are we a city where all residents are flourishing?” He asked. “It’s about people. I think Colorado Springs can be that potential great American city. We can not just be good – we can be amazing. And the time is right.”
Currently, Darryl Glen, a former member of the Colorado Springs City Council and El Paso County Commissioner, and County Commissioner Longinos Gonzalez, Jr. are the other official bids in this race.
FOX21 has offered interviews to both of those candidates.
Former Secretary of State Wayne Williams has announced his plan to run as well.