Boulder Mayor Aaron Brockett is planning to run for mayor in the 2023 election. Credit: Don Kohlbauer

Mayor Aaron Brockett announced to his social media followers over the weekend that he is planning to run for city mayor in the 2023 election. For months, Brockett has indicated he plans to run for the post, but the public pronouncement marks an all-but-official launch of his campaign. 

“I’m running right now because there is so much work left to be done. We see it in our community all the time. The needs are great. People are suffering. They need our help,” Brockett told a group of about 150 people gathered at the Elks Lodge for a candidate forum last week. “We can make Boulder the just, equitable and accessible place that it deserves to be.” 

Voters in November will directly elect the city’s mayor by a ranked-choice vote for the first time. Councilmember Bob Yates has already announced his run. Councilmember Nicole Speer told Boulder Reporting Lab she plans to launch her campaign when she submits the required paperwork to do so in August. 

Until this year, councilmembers — not voters — appointed one of their colleagues as mayor, who mostly has the additional task of representing the city and managing council meetings. Brockett, who has served on the Boulder City Council since 2015, was appointed mayor in 2021. 

Unlike the other candidates in the race, Brockett will have to defend his record as mayor. During the candidate forum last week, Yates said the council will not accomplish all the goals it set out to achieve by the end of 2023. He said the city needs a leader who can be “efficient” and “hold [city] staff accountable” for doing the work councilmembers request of them. Similarly, at the same event, Speer said the city needs to be “moving forward as quickly as possible to address all of our big goals.” 

Brockett said he, too, is frustrated by the pace of progress over the last two years. But he said the next six months will be different. 

“We have all kinds of great stuff teed up about occupancy reform, rezonings, we’ve got new social services and the day center coming online,” he said. “We’re getting stuff done in the next for months.” 

In 2003, Brockett and his wife, Cherry Anderson, quit their jobs in Connecticut and moved to Boulder. They bought a townhome at the Wild Sage co-housing community in North Boulder’s Holiday Neighborhood. Brockett, who co-founded a software development company, Charon Software, served on the city’s Planning Board from 2011 to 2015. Last summer, he sought to fill a vacancy for a seat as a state representative, but it was won by his colleague, Councilmember Junie Joseph. 

Brockett has two children, one of whom serves on the city’s Environmental Advisory Board. He frequently commutes around town by bike, lives in multifamily housing, and is planning to install an electric heat pump in his home. He said he cooks on an induction stove. “Everybody’s at a different point in their personal journey, but our home doesn’t use any natural gas inside of it,” he told Boulder Reporting Lab.   

Unlike some of his colleagues, he is unlikely to openly criticize city staff. But he has pushed back on some of their recommendations. During last week’s city council meeting, for instance, he requested that the Climate Initiatives Department come back with a proposed energy code for new buildings that includes a “100% electrification” requirement. This could include a ban on gas hookups in new construction (with some exceptions) — something city officials have advocated against

Some of his priorities if he were to continue as mayor, he said, include reforming the region’s land-use map in the Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan to create more “housing and mixed-use opportunities in town.” (Such revisions are one of the few major policy levers the city council has to increase urban density and open up new areas in the region for housing developments.)

He is also interested in growing a new, non-police alternative for 911 calls. (Such a city program is already in the works.) And he said he’s excited about the creation of a management plan for the Fort Chambers site, also known as the Poor Farm, which the city purchased in 2018 and designated as open space. The location was a training ground for soldiers before they helped kill hundreds of Cheyenne and Arapaho people at the 1864 Sand Creek Massacre. The city has said it is consulting with the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes over what to do with the land. “We’ve been very careful to elevate the voices of those tribes in that process,” Brockett said. 

In terms of his politics, Brockett sits somewhere between his two likely rivals in the race for mayor. 

He supports lifting the city’s occupancy limits on unrelated people from three to five. (Speer supports eliminating the city’s regulation of occupancy based on family status, and Brockett does not. Yates has indicated he does not wish to change the city’s occupancy limits at all.) 

He supports the city’s continued enforcement of the camping ban, which allows the city to clear out encampments of homeless people from public spaces. “I will say this is an incredibly hard decision,” he said. “If people set up tents in the middle of a public park, or in the middle of a sidewalk, that’s something where those spaces need to be available to everyone.” (Speer has indicated she wants to reduce the amount of city spending on encampment removals. Brockett supports creating a space in town where homeless people can sleep outside legally. Yates does not.) 

Brockett was absent for the city council’s vote to remove a member from the Police Oversight Panel, but he said in a city council hotline post he would not support her removal. The vote came after a special counsel investigated a resident complaint and recommended the member’s removal because she was not adequately vetted for her bias against police, among other reasons. (Speer opposed the removal. Yates voted for the member’s removal, and unlike Brockett, he also voted against her appointment.) 

Since the start of the year, the city has received more code of conduct complaints than in any single year over the last decade, according to city records. Most of the complaints have been determined to be unfounded. But the sheer number of them has slowed down the work of the city council, cost taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars in special counsel fees, and contributed to a decision by the Police Oversight Panel to pause its work, in part due to legal concerns. 

Brockett said city code requires councilmembers to launch investigations into complaints. “It was a tough situation. We were put on a path where we didn’t have a lot of choices.” He added, “it might be reasonable to raise the threshold for what requires a full investigation.” 

Despite what he described as a “very polarized” society in the U.S. and in Boulder, he has repeated his desire to govern as mayor with a “collaborative approach.” 

“You’re unlikely to find a path and a policy that pleases everyone,” Brockett told Boulder Reporting Lab. “But I think what you have to do is be able to filter — to not privilege the loudest voices, and the most strident voices. And instead, try to have a clear vision of what will have the best outcome for the community as a whole.” 

He said he has been taking intensive Spanish classes over the last year and wants to be able to meet more with the Latino community. He also said he wants to engage the city’s immigrant community and make decisions that keep in mind the “neediest amongst us.” 

“I feel like that kind of leadership can continue to benefit the City of Boulder, as well as the really high level of community engagement, in terms of saying ‘yes’ to essentially every request to be out in the community,” he said. “I think that kind of dedication is really important in the mayor’s role.”

Correction: A previous version of this story said Brockett voted to support the removal of a Police Oversight Panel member. He was absent for the vote, and said before the vote he would not support the member’s removal.

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 Comment

  1. Progressives ignore the likely fact that increasing the occupancy limit will increase the attractiveness of market rates houses for investors; who can charge $1500 per bedroom, mostly to students. Rents will not lower because there is an unlimited supply of students seeking to rent in Boulder, and families seeking to purchase a house will see rising costs as they compete with more investors buying houses.

Leave a comment
Boulder Reporting Lab comments policy
All comments require an editor's review. BRL reserves the right to delete or turn off comments at any time. Please read our comments policy before commenting.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *