Honoring our city’s first female mayor
Excerpted from Downtown Walking Tour, “Becoming Heroes”. Click here for tour information.
Numerous women have challenged and shattered the status quo throughout Colorado Springs’ rich history. Mary Lou Makepeace, the first female mayor of Colorado Springs, was a longtime champion for the underserved and a passionate advocate for our city center.
A changemaker from the beginning
Makepeace entered the nonprofit world as executive director of the Community Council of the Pikes Peak Region and established programs including Project COPE, designed to assist the elderly and low-income residents with their utility bills. Project COPE continues a vital program to this day.
Makepeace’s political journey began in 1985 when she was appointed to fill a vacated City Council seat. As a councilmember, she helped form the Colorado Springs Women’s Network in response to the growing number of women who voiced concerns about discrimination. Known for her open and innovative leadership, Makepeace unified a once-divided City Council and gained voter approval for significant improvements.
She initiated the successful Springs Community Improvement Program (SCIP), engaging hundreds of citizens in prioritizing capital improvement needs in the city including the development of America the Beautiful Park on the west side of Downtown. Her work resulted in citizen approval of the largest bond issue in the city’s history up to that point.
Her efforts toward building equity in the Colorado Springs judicial system resulted in the appointment of the city’s first female municipal judges and passing of measures that provided for domestic-partner health benefits.
Makepeace believed that public spaces should be designed to bring people together, and she was instrumental in the development of America the Beautiful Park and the Uncle Wilber Fountain, two of Downtown’s most popular gathering places. “A fountain is a place where connections are made. It’s a place that invites us to slow down a bit, to talk to our neighbors, to chat with our colleagues, to play with our children, and to introduce ourselves to other citizens who we might not otherwise meet. And all of that – I believe – builds community,” said Makepeace in 1999.
A legacy continues
After her tenure ended in 2003, she became executive director of the Gay & Lesbian Fund for Colorado, distributing millions of dollars to nonprofits across the state. She was inducted to the Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame in 2008
Many thanks to The Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum for the information presented here.