Federal Heights, like any other north Denver suburb, has city council meetings where important decisions are made. The meetings for the city begin with the chatter of people who have known each other for years, and some conversations between new friends. But as soon as the time hit 6 o’clock, mayor Linda Montoya and her council are all about business. The meetings are efficient, and everything on the agenda is finished in less than an hour.
But what makes this small city’s town hall so extraordinary? The answer is simple: this is Colorado’s first and only all-female city council.
Federal Heights is a small municipality on Federal Boulevard, between 92nd and 104th. It’s not even two square miles in area, but to the nearly 13,000 people living in the neighborhood, it is home.
Montoya has been one of those people for 22 years. She and her husband have lived on the same street for over two decades and she fell in love with the “family feel” of the community.
For over thirty years, she’s been a legal assistant in a Denver law firm. Law is an industry that will always keep its patrons on their toes, which is what she loves about it.
“I’m not a person who likes to be stagnant,” she said. “The law is always changing, and so I get to continue learning.”
She always tried her best to stay involved in her community, often by attending city council meetings. She saw the struggles of the council: the lack of diversity, the lack of focus, and a lack of desire to better the community. Federal Heights’ population is 54% Hispanic, and more than half of its citizens are women. She felt that a city council led by a man may not be the best to lead such a town. In 2019, she decided that she should be the change that she wanted to see in the local government.
Montoya claims that when she ran for mayor, she was not expecting to win the election, being the only Hispanic person and the only woman running for the position. But she won in a landslide, becoming Federal Heights’ first Latina mayor.
Her work in law did more than enough to prepare her for life in office. She knows more about Colorado law than anyone else who ran for the position, and her organization and multitasking skills are sharp. Her desire to continue learning led her to familiarize herself with everything about the small city.
Being elected in 2019, it wasn’t long before the COVID shutdowns complicated life in Federal Heights. Despite the chaos and struggles that came with being in a leadership position during this tumultuous time, Montoya handled the stress with poise, and she and her council made it through. As of this summer, they are officially back to having their meetings in person at the town hall.
The local elections last December completed the roster. Montoya said she didn’t realize that her council had just made history, but she is incredibly proud to be leading this group of wonder women. They are mothers, grandmothers, business leaders and they get the job done.
“It’s really awesome that I get to lead these women,” she said. “It’s an honor.”
This feat alone is amazing, but taking a closer look at the functions of the council makes it even more impressive. Meetings are more efficient and to the point, and Montoya takes pride in her clockwork council, and claims that it’s not just coincidence.
“Women seem to be busier, with family, with parents, even with grandchildren. They have less time to sit around and chit chat at a city council meeting for hours. Instead they get things done,” she said. “They tend to be more focused and more efficient in that way.”
Montoya is not the only one who notices this. Sharon Richardson was a member of the Federal Heights City Council for sixteen years, starting in the late 1980s. She was a part of many different councils with more men than women, and she claims that this council is more empathetic to the community.
“Anytime there’s a man on this council, they screw it up,” she said. “Now, it’s good to see things coming together.”
The city of Federal Heights, as small as it is, is thriving under the leadership of these seven women. And as mayor, Linda Montoya plans to keep it that way for as long as she can.