Just eighteen months ago Yemi Mobolade, a Nigerian immigrant and businessman who moved to Colorado Springs in 2010 was a political newcomer who set out to become Colorado Springs’ next mayor and break the status quo.
On the 16th of May 2023, he was poised to do just that — and was also on his way to making history as the city’s first elected Black mayor. His victory represents a seismic shift in the political foundations of Colorado’s second-largest city.
Yemi Mobolade, an unaffiliated, first-time candidate, didn’t just triumph over a veteran Republican politician in Wayne Williams by double digits in the city’s mayoral runoff — the Nigerian immigrant ended up upending the board in a once reliably right-leaning city that has been moving towards the center in leaps and bounds going by recent elections.
Mobolade’s stunning victory represents a seismic political upheaval in Colorado Springs, long known for being a conservative stronghold. Though the city’s municipal elections are nonpartisan, Mobalade, who is neither a Republican nor a Democrat, will be the first mayor not affiliated with the Republican Party since Colorado Springs started electing mayors 45 years ago.
Mobolade, an immigrant born in Nigeria and who first came to the United States in 1996, said the unofficial election results showed that the voters of Colorado Springs were earnestly yearning for a new kind of leadership and ready to move in another direction.
“The hunger is for a vision that transcends political party lines. The tiredness and frustration in our city and in our nation is around partisan divide and the fighting that happens,” he said. “People are just ready for a new type of leadership that puts our quality of life ahead of party politics.
“This was always intended to be a nonpartisan election,” he said. “…The city charter demands that a good mayor … needs to be nonpartisan. I’m glad that I could restore the spirit of the law that we should be abiding by.”
“Yemi has tremendous crossover appeal,” Republican consultant Daniel Cole told news sources just before the results started trickling in on the night of the 16th of May, 2023. Cole ran an independent group that supported Williams in the first round but sat out the runoff, admitted that internal polling predicted Mobolade’s sweeping win.
“Polling showed him winning all the Democrats, the vast majority of unaffiliateds and a significant chunk of Republicans, too,” he said.
Mobolade who has promised a more inclusive and culturally rich city recently said making local history as the first Black mayor elected by Colorado Springs voters is an opportunity he sees for more inclusivity.
Leon Young served as the city’s first Black mayor, stepping in as interim mayor in 1997 after former Mayor Bob Isaac retired early and resigned from the seat. Young was first elected to the City Council in 1973 and appointed vice mayor in 1981, a position he served in until 1997. After serving for a short time as mayor, Young continued to serve on the City Council until he died in 2001.
“I’m aware I am a Black leader and that tells a story,” Mobolade told reporters at an event ahead of the Mayoral election. “I hope the story it tells is that Colorado Springs is an inclusive city, that it’s a new day for our city. Young African American kids have said they’re excited to see someone who looks like them running for this office. I hope to inspire the next generation of minority leaders to do great things in this city, as well.”
Mobolade will step into the mayor’s office at a critical time in the city’s history, residents and local observers have said in recent months. He will need to work with the City Council to make key decisions about growth, housing affordability, water availability, public safety, parks, transit and investment in roads and economic development.
In a speech punctuated by cheers from the crowd, Mobolade promised to “get to work” addressing public safety, homelessness, infrastructure, and affordable and attainable housing — promises he’s made over the last 18 months on the campaign trail.
Yemi Mobolade is Colorado Springs’ former Small Business Development administrator, the Colorado Springs Chamber & EDC’s former vice president of business retention and co-founder of café-style eateries Good Neighbors Meeting House and The Wild Goose Meeting House, as well as business consultant company Niche Coaching and Consulting. Mobolade served as a ministry leader at First Presbyterian Church of Colorado Springs, and then later co-founded the nonprofit COSILoveYou and the CityServe Day movement that united more than 100 churches in service to the community.
Mobolade told reporters the first thing he plans to do after being sworn in on June 6 is to meet with city department heads and decide how to lead over the next four years.
“We will cast a vision for a great city and cast a vision for how we’re going to work for our taxpayers,” he said.
As the city’s first elected black mayor who has talked about his bold ideas and plans, Mobolade sure has the eyes of Colorado Springs and the entire state primed firmly on him.