Formerly the deputy mayor of the City and County of Denver in 2016 and 2020, Don Mares serves as executive director of Denver Human Services (DHS), which provides support to one in three Denver residents to help them build and maintain overall well-being. Under Mares’ leadership, DHS spearheaded a multi-agency effort to strengthen the child safety net for kids in danger by improving coordination between safety net agencies, overseeing the implementation of the Subcommittee for Child Safety into the Mayor’s Children’s Cabinet, and improving the agency’s outreach into communities with the formation of a new Community Impact division focused on community outreach, engagement, and charitable giving.
Before appointing him to lead DHS in 2015, Mayor Michael B. Hancock tapped Mares to head the new Office of Behavioral Health Strategies in 2014. Denver was the first metropolitan city in the nation to establish an Office of Behavioral Health Strategies. Mares is also a founding member of the Caring for Denver Board of Directors, which is developing a strategic plan to identify priorities and distribute city funding to local organizations from the Mental and Behavioral Health Sales Tax.
Previously, Mares served as president and CEO of Mental Health Colorado, the state’s leading behavioral health advocacy and systems change organization. He also served in Governor Bill Ritter, Jr.’s, cabinet as the executive director of the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment. In addition, he was elected to two terms as Denver’s auditor from 1995 to 2003 and served as a Colorado state senator and Colorado state representative from 1989 to 1995.
Mares has received numerous awards for his work as a community leader, including his induction into the Denver Public Library Commission’s César Chávez Leadership Hall of Fame (2015), the Mental Health Corporation of Denver Outstanding Political Figure Award (1995), Labor’s Community Agency’s Community Service Award (1999), the Junior League Legislative Champion for Children Award (1996), and the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce’s Government Advocate of the Year Award (2000).
A Denver native, Mares and his wife, Ruth, live near Sloan’s Lake and have three children, Melissa, D.J., and Emily.