Coucnilmember Bob Yates is the first candidate to announce he is running for Boulder mayor in 2023. Credit: Don Kohlbauer

Councilmember Bob Yates announced Monday, June 5, he is running for Boulder mayor, becoming the first person to formally announce his candidacy. The announcement sets the stage for what is likely to be a fiercely competitive race among several elected officials vying for the position.  

“I definitely love serving on city council. It’s the best job I’ve ever had,” Yates told Boulder Reporting Lab in advance of his announcement. “But I think I have more to offer than what I’m providing right now. I have a lot of leadership experience outside of council.” 

Yates, who is 62 and a retired lawyer and telecommunications executive, has served on council since 2015. He leveraged one of his subtle potential advantages — his monthly newsletter, the Boulder Bulletin — to break the news of his run to his subscribers this morning. 

“Boulder needs leadership,” Yates wrote, previewing his messaging strategy in the historic race. “What we need is someone with the vision and the drive to rally our community, to help us be the best we can be. What we need is a pragmatic and inspiring leader.” 

This November, voters will directly elect the city’s mayor by a ranked-choice vote for the first time. Previously, councilmembers unceremoniously selected one of their colleagues to fill the role, which includes keeping meetings on time and representing the city on the regional, state and national stage. 

The race will be decided by ranked-choice voting, which Boulderites approved in a 2020 ballot measure. Ranked choice allows voters to pick more than one candidate and order them. Votes for low-performing candidates are reassigned to people’s backup choices until a candidate receives a majority of votes.

With the direct election of the mayor, Yates told Boulder Reporting Lab he believes voters will be looking for a “visionary and inspirational and proactive” leader who will “take the community to a new place.” 

Yates was the top vote-getter in the 2015 and 2019 races for city council. His support came despite being a registered Republican in the solidly blue City of Boulder. (He is now registered as unaffiliated). He could run for city council again instead of mayor, but is choosing not to. 

A former executive at Level 3 Communications, a telecommunications company, Yates moved to Boulder in 2001. He purchased a home in the Melody Heights neighborhood, and has since taught as an adjunct professor at the University of Colorado Law School and served on many nonprofit boards. 

Before running for city council in 2015, he served as chair of the city’s Parks and Recreation Advisory Board and chair of the Museum of Boulder, where he helped relocate the museum to its downtown location. In 2014, he campaigned on the nonprofit’s behalf in support of a .3% citywide sales tax increase that supported local art programs. He is currently a board member of the Downtown Boulder Community Initiatives, a charity arm of the Downtown Boulder Partnership, which represents the interest of businesses on Pearl Street and promotes downtown events. 

While Yates is the first to formally announce his bid for city mayor, several others have expressed their intention to run. Mayor Aaron Brockett and Councilmember Nicole Speer told Boulder Reporting Lab they are also considering running for mayor.

When it comes to policy, Yates is likely to differ from the other candidates in several notable ways. 

He said “public safety is our number one responsibility,” a nod to concerns from an increasingly vocal contingent of Boulder residents who are frustrated by the city’s recent rise in reported crime. He added that if the city’s police chief were to ask for more money, “I never want to say no to that request.” 

“I think that our police department has not been adequately supported,” Yates said. “And some of that’s financial support. But a lot of it is, quite frankly, emotional support. They get beat up a lot. These are people who put their lives on the line every day.” 

In January, he was among the three councilmembers who voted against nominating six new members to the Police Oversight Panel, echoing concerns by community members and a representative for the police union that the panelists were not adequately vetted for their bias and prejudice against police. He also voted to remove Lisa Sweeney-Miran, an outspoken advocate of police reform, from the panel. By contrast, Mayor Brockett and Councilmember Speer voted to appoint the panelists. Speer also voted against removing Sweeney-Miran. In some respects, the controversy over the panel has become a proxy fight in the high-stakes November election, in which five council seats, including mayor, are up for grabs.

Another prominent issue in this year’s election is likely to be homelessness. Yates said he supports creating a drop-in day center where homeless people can go to access services that help them get housing. In recent weeks, the proposed location for such a center on Folsom Street has drawn opposition from some neighbors.

On the chosen site, Yates said: “The location is selected by staff. Our job on council is to be the setters of policy. Our job is not to be the administrators to actually do things.”

He aligns with the majority of the nine-member city council in its support for relaxing rules for building more accessory dwelling units (ADUs), increasing the city’s occupancy limits on how many unrelated people can live together to as many as five, and creating a new program to subsidize the cost of buying a home for middle-income residents. 

But he opposed the 2021 Bedrooms Are For People ballot measure, which would have raised occupancy limits to one person per bedroom, plus one. The measure failed, but it was a litmus test for whether candidates aligned with the more progressive slate of councilmembers, who now make up the current majority on city council.

He also did not support the Colorado land-use bill that would have outlawed single-family zoning in certain areas of certain cities. Mayor Brockett was among few Colorado mayors supporting much of the bill. It died on the final day of the 2023 legislative session. 

The bill is likely to return in some fashion. If it does, as mayor, Yates said he would represent the views of the Boulder City Council. But on a personal level, he would oppose it. 

“What I bristled at, and what I continue to disagree with, is when the state comes through and tells cities how to use their land,” he said. “I believe that land use is the most fundamental right of a home-rule city and Colorado.” 

The candidates’ policy differences underscore the stakes in this year’s mayoral election. But the race will encompass more than policy positions, according to Yates. He said this race will come down to “experience and style” of leadership, too. 

“​​There will be some good people who will run for mayor,” Yates told Boulder Reporting Lab. “But there may be some people who maybe are not ready for that either, because they lack experience or they lack the skills.” 

“And I think each one of us is going to have a different style when it comes to leadership. And I think that’s going to be up to the community to discern that leadership style,” he added. “I’ve had enough leadership experiences that I can’t hide from my style.” 

Since 2016, Yates has used his monthly newsletter to explain his views on major policy questions. It has more than 7,500 subscribers, a number he features at the top of each edition. In the lead-up to the November 2023 election, the newsletter could be a campaign asset and a potential headache. 

Some of his critics refer to it as “Bobaganda.” His written commentary regarding his colleagues on the council has prompted a debate over decorum. And he faces a code of conduct complaint from a resident over how he allegedly collects and shares subscriber emails, one of many complaints filed this year against councilmembers, as residents have increasingly used a previously obscure legal mechanism to express grievances. (The complaint is under review by a city council-appointed special counsel. Yates has denied the allegations.) 

“Sometimes I use good language. Sometimes I go a little overboard. I think sometimes we all do,” Yates said of his more controversial posts. “If I see something that I think is not right, I will call that out and say I think that’s not right.” 

But he said this approach might have to change if elected mayor. 

“I think the [mayor] has to be very careful about making sure that their personal opinions on a particular matter are, at highest, equivalent to those they are leading,” Yates said. “I think that does involve a little bit of a shift.”

John Herrick is senior reporter for Boulder Reporting Lab, covering housing, transportation, policing and local government. He previously covered the state Capitol for The Colorado Independent and environmental policy for He is interested in stories about people, power and fairness. Email:

Join the Conversation


  1. I’m very happy to see that Bob Yates is running for mayor. Balanced, compassionate, articulate, judicious!

  2. I don’t think Boulder should have a Republican mayor. That is not what Boulder is.

  3. I think Bob would be a great mayor. Public safety is a major concern for many of us in Boulder. Bring back common sense to the rising crime problem here and ensure the safety of Boulder residents first – before any other issue.

  4. I’m thrilled to see a proven, experienced, common-sense candidate run for Mayor. Let’s get Boulder back to basics—fix the potholes, enforce the laws, and continue to work on affordable housing so we can have a mix of income levels in town.

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