Deborah “Debbie” Ortega is an at-large member of Denver City Council. She was first elected to one of two at-large positions on Denver City Council in 2011 and was re-elected in 2015 and 2019. In this position she is elected by and serves the entire city.
The daughter of a coal miner, Debbie was born and spent her early years in Raton, New Mexico. Tragically, her father died in a coal mine accident when she was five. Her mother raised Debbie, her brother and three sisters alone for several years. Later, after her mom remarried, the family moved to Denver when Debbie was 13. Her parents made the move to provide the children with better education and economic opportunities.
Debbie’s commitment to her community began early. While at West High School, she worked at the Barnum Park Recreation Center. Debbie attended Barnes Business College and did an internship with DU Law School’s Clinical Education Program. After DU Professor Dick Lamm became Governor, she was recruited to work for Lt. Governor George Brown. In 1978 she went to work for U.S. Senator Floyd Haskell. In this role she managed the applications for appointments to the US Military Academies and was successful helping miners to obtain Black Lung benefits. Her commitment to her community, economic and social justice, and the environment were forged during her time in in these offices working on policy issues. She gained real-life exposure to the job of representing community and forging solutions to tough problems.
Debbie’s path led her to work with Denver City Councilman Sal Carpio. Under Carpio’s tutelage, she gained practical experience in the hard and often complex business of running the city. This required knowledge of how to bring people with different concerns to the table to solve problems. Upon Carpio’s retirement from city council, Debbie was prepared to apply the knowledge and skills she had gained to representing the citizens of District 9. She confidently transitioned into the role of councilwoman in 1987. While representing her district, she also successfully raised her daughter as a single mother.
Recognizing commitment, experience and leadership, Denver voters elected her to the at-large position on city council in 2011 and re-elected her with large margins in 2015 and 2019. Among her many accomplishments are the cleanup of the ASARCO Superfund Site in north Denver, groundbreaking mitigation measures along the I-70 corridor, employment opportunities for the residents living near Central 70, the creation of the Lower Downtown (LoDo) Historic District, doubling fines for speeding in school zones, and designation of over 1,000 acres of parkland. She was a co-sponsor of Denver’s Equal Protection Ordinance that was upheld by the US Supreme Court. She played a pivotal role during COVID in demanding and pushing out critical resource information to Denver residents.
Councilwoman Ortega is currently working on a Construction Careers Ordinance that will set goals for local hiring of residents and set goals for the use of apprentices on city projects. She also has introduced an ordinance that will give authority to city agencies to address life/safety issues for development adjacent to freight rail corridors.