Text Size
Increase text size
Increase text size

About the Governor

Photo of John Hickenlooper looking towards sky in blue shirt

John Hickenlooper is a former geologist and businessman who champions innovation, collaboration and efficiency. Since taking office in 2011, the Governor and his team have worked to ensure that Colorado and its business-friendly climate is one of the most desirable places to live, work and play.


John and his team are restoring faith in good government and leading Colorado's economic resurgence by:


  • Making Colorado the best state in the nation to do business by supporting entrepreneurs, encouraging innovation and promoting the growth and development of the state’s highly-skilled workforce. Part of this strategy involves regulatory reform, eliminating red-tape, and establishing a state “brand” that will attract new investment.
  • Making Colorado the model for energy policy by promoting an “all-the-above” energy policy that develops Colorado’s traditional and renewable resources in a balanced way, and with the highest ethical and public safety standards. Colorado’s renewable energy standard and oil and gas rules are models that have attracted international attention.
  • Making Colorado an innovator in education by championing early childhood education, and education reform across the P-20 system that is transformative, not only in the way teachers teach, but in the results achieved by students. Colorado’s third-grade literacy program is a model for the country.
  • Making Colorado the healthiest state. Colorado is one of a handful of states to pass bipartisan legislation to create a health exchange giving small businesses and uninsured Coloradans health insurance options. Reducing childhood obesity, promoting healthier life styles, better oral health and cost-effective Medicaid are just a few targets in the administration’s strategy.

John’s favorite quote is from Abraham Lincoln. He said, “With public sentiment, nothing can fail. Without it, nothing can succeed” That largely describes John’s governing approach as he tackles difficult problems in a bottom-up – and not a top-down – way. It also means gathering stakeholders with diverse opinions, listening and then collaborating to find common ground.


Examples of this approach can be found with the Colorado Blueprint, TBD Colorado and the Colorado Innovation Network. Each of these efforts reflect the Hickenlooper Administration’s commitment to engage Coloradans and find solutions.


John is one of only a few governors serving in leadership positions with the National Governors Association and theWestern Governors’ Association. He also serves as the Vice Chair of the Democratic Governors Association.


Born in Narberth, Pa., John saw his father die at a young age and was raised by his notoriously frugal mother. Having lived through the Great Depression, John’s mother never wore a dress she didn’t sew herself, and she washed plastic wrap and aluminum foil for reuse. John has carried these lessons of frugality throughout his life – lessons that have served him well as a budget-conscious chief executive.


John earned a bachelor’s degree in English and a master’s degree in geology, both from Wesleyan University, and moved to Colorado in 1981, finding work with Buckhorn Petroleum. With the collapse of the oil industry in the 1980s, John was laid-off and his career as a geologist came to an end. He struggled for a while until he came up with the crazy idea to open Colorado’s first brewpub. As John likes to say, “I didn’t know anything about starting a business. I didn’t even know what a pro forma was.”


But John went to the Denver Public Library, got books on how to write a business plan and started the long process of making his vision a reality. He eventually opened The Wynkoop Brewing Co. in a dilapidated warehouse district of downtown Denver. His vision proved successful, and the brewpub and restaurant are now mainstays of Denver’s community and the beating heart of Lower Downtown.


In 2003, John entered the race for Denver mayor. Despite opposition from seasoned political veterans, he captured the attention of voters with his outsiders’ perspective and business prowess, and he won by a landslide 2-to-1 margin.


As mayor, John consistently honed a creative, innovative and efficient edge to government. He overhauled the city’s financial system, created the city’s first chief financial officer and streamlined many city services. In 2005, after serving only two years as mayor, Time magazine placed him among the top five “big-city” mayors in the country.


John ran for Governor of Colorado in 2010 on a platform to make Colorado the best place for entrepreneurs to grow jobs. He promised a balanced budget plan without raising taxes and a regulatory philosophy that would support economic development while maintaining the highest environmental standards.


Perhaps most important of all, John brought to the state Capitol a track record of bringing people together to solve problems instead of stoking the same old partisan squabbles.


In his 2013 State of the State address, John said this about Colorado:


“While Washington struggles with fiscal cliffs and partisan fights, Colorado demonstrates there is still room for compromise and moderation.
“Some have suggested a divided government – that is, divided chambers – has been a blessing for our administration. They say I got lucky … but I don’t see it that way.
“Our blessing was not divided government in the last two years; our blessing was in the many relationships we formed with lawmakers from both parties … and that you have with each other.
“These relationships endure. They span the geography of our state and they transcend political affiliation. And they’ve been nourished by our working together … helped along every once in a while by a cold Colorado beer.”


John is a devoted parent to his son, and the proud owner of their rescue dog, Skye.




Download photos of Gov. Hickenlooper (1) (2) (3)