Denver Mayor-elect Mike Johnston names former Biden, Polis campaign staffer Jenn Ridder chief of staff

Denver Mayor-elect Mike Johnston has announced the first high-profile hire for his incoming administration naming  Jenn Ridder, a veteran organizer of Democratic political campaigns, his chief of staff.

Johnston announced Ridder’s hire on Friday. The incoming mayor called Ridder a dedicated public servant who is committed to his agenda of building a more equitable and vibrant city. She was a senior advisor to his successful mayoral run, according to a news release.

“As we confront both big challenges and big opportunities, there’s no one better to help us steer the ship than Jenn,” Johnston said in a statement.

Ridder, 35, is from Denver, graduating from East High School in 2005. The news release announcing her role in the incoming administration highlighted her love for skiing.

Ridder’s professional background is in working on campaigns for Democratic politicians. That includes managing Gov. Jared Polis’ first gubernatorial campaign in 2018 when he defeated Johnston in the Democratic primary.

She is a previous director of the mountain west division of the Democratic National Congressional Campaign Committee. In 2020, she held a senior role in President Joe Biden’s campaign as he unseated incumbent Donald Trump.

She was in talks to work for Biden’s 2024 re-election campaign when she was offered and accepted Johnston’s chief of staff position, she said.

“I was deep in talks with Biden world. If you had told me eight weeks ago this is where I would land, I’m not sure I would have believed you,” she said of accepting the job offer. “I was really excited and where I felt I could have the most impact was here in my home city.”

Johnston won’t officially take the reins of the city from term-limited Mayor Michael Hancock until he takes the oath of office at a swearing-in ceremony scheduled for 10 a.m. Monday at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House downtown. One of Ridder’s first tasks will be overseeing an ice cream social in the city’s Wellington Webb Municipal Office Building on Monday afternoon at which Johnston will introduce himself to some of the city’s rank-and-file staffers he will now lead.

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Being chief of staff will mean managing the mayor’s office but Johnston also intends to hire a chief operating officer to work with and help manage the day-to-day needs of city departments, Ridder said.

She will be part of the conversations around hiring department heads, positions that have been subject to a wide-reaching public input process over the last few weeks. But the decisions on who will lead critical arms of the city like the public safety, housing and health departments are ultimately up to Johnston himself, she said.

“We’re looking forward to having conversations with folks who are both new and folks who have been part of the Hancock administration,” she said.

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