Denver’s mayor gives honorees fancy gold coins instead of keys to the city

“We don’t give away keys to the city, John. Too many people breaking in.”

A Denver Challenge Coin. (Courtesy of the Mayor's Office)
Mayor Michael Hancock speaks to the press at the launch of Denver Day Works. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) mayor michael hancock; homeless; day labor; social work; kevinjbeaty; denverite; denver; colorado; kevinjbeaty;
Mayor Michael Hancock speaks to the press at the launch of Denver Day Works. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock has fancy gold coins for “outstanding individuals” who have contributed to the city.

The general manager of the Denver Broncos has one, so do three former presidents and Stevie Wonder. Altogether, 30 people and organizations have received Challenge Coins from Hancock since October 2013, according to a list the Mayor’s Office shared with Denverite.

Denver’s coins are modeled after challenge coins collected by soldiers and police officers. When awarding a coin to former Broncos quarterback John Elway earlier this year, Hancock reportedly quipped, “We don’t give away keys to the city, John. Too many people breaking in.”

It’s not just celebrities who have received Denver Challenge Coins.

A Denver Challenge Coin. (Courtesy of the Mayor's Office)
A Denver Challenge Coin. (Courtesy of the Mayor’s Office)

“Mayor Hancock has given his Challenge Coins to local figures like Albertine Sellers for her 60 years of service to the city and county of Denver, to Marie Greenwood who was the first African-American school teacher within the Denver Public Schools system, to several county court judges for their service to the Denver community, among many others,” said Jenna Espinoza, a spokeswoman for the Mayor’s Office.

Who has a Denver Challenge Coin?
  1. 2013 DIA Timecapsule
  2. Albertine Sellers, longest-serving city employee
  3. Big Jon Platt, CEO and chairman of Warner Chappell Music
  4. Chauncey Billups, retired Denver Nuggets player
  5. Dana Crawford, developer and preservationist
  6. David Cohen, TechStars founder
  7. Denver County Judge Alfred C. Harrell
  8. Denver County Judge Claudia Jordan
  9. Denver County Judge Kerry Hada
  10. Denver County Judge Raymond N. Satter
  11. Denver County Judge Robert Crew
  12. Denver Press Club
  13. Gen. Anthony Zinni
  14. Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Olympic athlete
  15. John Elway, Denver Broncos general manager
  16. John Whelan, Denver firefighter engineer
  17. Lt. Col. Kenneth Chavez
  18. Lt. Gen. Edward G. Anderson III
  19. Makoto Ito, former Consul General of Japan
  20. Marcus Latrell, retired Navy Seal and author of “Lone Survivor”
  21. Marie Greenwood, first African-American DPS teacher
  22. Mitch Morrissey, former Denver District Attorney
  23. President Bill Clinton
  24. President Barack Obama
  25. President Jimmy Carter
  26. Rev. Leon Kelly Jr., executive director of Open Door Youth Gang Alternatives
  27. Rev. William Golson, founder of True Light Baptist Church
  28. Stevie Wonder
  29. Tom Clark, former Economic Development Corp. CEO
  30. Yvette Carlson, U.S. Army veteran
The back of a Denver Challenge Coin. (Courtesy of the Mayor's Office)
The back of a Denver Challenge Coin. (Courtesy of the Mayor’s Office)

Due to a source error, Denver firefighter engineer John Whelan was not included on the original list from the Mayor’s Office. Whelan died in 2015 after falling through a roof while responding to a fire.

Business & data reporter Adrian D. Garcia can be reached via email at agarcia@denverite.com or twitter.com/adriandgarcia.

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Adrian D. Garcia

Author: Adrian D. Garcia

Adrian D. Garcia is on business and trends for Denverite, serves as treasurer for the Colorado chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and on the board of the Denver Press Club. He can be reached at agarcia@denverite.com.