Governor, city officials mourn Carla Madison

Councilwoman’s spirit will be missed

Denver City Council lost one of their most vibrant members as District 8 Councilwoman Carla Madison, 54, lost her battle with cancer late Tuesday.

Madison, elected in June 2007 and known for her bold style and outlook on life, was passionate about neighborhoods and strengthening the community spirit of her East-Denver district. An ardent environmentalist, Carla was often seen riding around town on her cruiser bike or jetting to Council meetings on her orange scooter, sporting a colorful hat and a warm smile.

Carla Madison with U.S. Senator Mark Udall last June.
Photo by John Schoenwalter/The Colorado Statesman

“One of the greatest joys working for the city of Denver was spending time with Carla Madison,” said Gov. John Hickenlooper in a statement on Wednesday morning. “She was eclectic in the most wonderful sense of the word and embraced a broad variety of passions. From expanding access to health care to promoting historic preservation, Carla was propelled by a relentless curiosity that knew no boundaries. A conversation with Carla seldom went where either us of expected, but it was always a joy.

“Although Carla was flamboyant in her dress and lifestyle, she was thoughtful and pragmatic in her approach to public policy,” Hickenlooper said. “She was a staunch believer in good government, and was an unwavering ally when we attempted difficult changes. It is likely the city would not have a new zoning code without her efforts. She was equally supportive of reforming the city’s public safety agencies.”

The governor, who previously served as Denver’s mayor and worked with Madison on city council work, heralded her love for culture and natural compassion.

 “Carla’s humor and good will permeated everything she touched. She could find a silver lining in almost anything. Often, if I was having a bad day or even a bad week, I would seek her out for the tonic of her company. I doubt I was the only one. There is and never was anyone like her,” the governor said.

 In her work as a councilwoman, Madison carried on the District 8 community traditions of the Hiawatha Davis Senior Luncheon and the King Trimble Tea. She started her own tradition, hosting an old-fashioned Ice Cream Social in City Park each summer, complete with historic costumes and activities. Adoption of the City’s new zoning code in 2010 was due in large part to her efforts to shepherd the massive overhaul through the political process, while being attuned to the needs of Denver’s business and neighborhood organizations. 

“On behalf of the Denver City Council, we are deeply saddened by the loss of our colleague Carla Madison,” said Denver City Council President Chris Nevitt. “Her spirit and love of the Denver community was unparalleled and Carla’s passionate, selfless and considerate voice is a great loss for the City.” 

“Carla was a dear friend who always had a warm smile and a kind word to share, and in turn, her positive energy and attitude brought happiness to others,” said Denver Mayor Bill Vidal. “She was a true and tireless champion for the many and diverse issues brought forward by her constituents in Council District 8, as well as a steadfast supporter of city-wide economic development and an outspoken advocate for the arts. Never too busy to take a moment to discuss an issue or a concern, Carla was known for her kind and selfless spirit. Carla will be greatly missed at City Hall but never forgotten in our thoughts.” 

“My heart is filled with pride and gratitude,” said Paul Weiss, her husband of 10 years. “Carla’s life — from being a hot air balloon pilot, a heli-vac firefighter, masseuse to the stars and intrepid world traveler to her position as a community leader — was filled with the joy of experience, and selfless dedication to service. Among her many gifts was the ability to embolden us all to aspire to be better than we ever thought we could be. 

“Carla’s integrity and courage were contagious and her grace, compassion and beauty were perpetually uplifting. Those of us fortunate to have known her personally know that when Carla looked at you there was no question that she cherished your relationship. When Carla spoke, you had no doubt that the world was a better place because she was in it. Few will disagree that she truly deserves the honorific of ‘Honorable,’” Weiss added. 

“I profoundly appreciate the support and blessings we received during her term of office and now as we together share in this indescribable loss. Thank you for being my wife’s friend.”

Madison was born in Denver and raised in Golden, and graduated from Marycrest High School. 

She earned a B.S. in Physical Geography and a Masters in Physical Therapy from Boston University. She returned to Denver and worked as a Physical Therapist for the Visiting Nurse Association for 17 years. 

But she also managed to travel most of the world and visit every U.S. state. Always up for adventure, she worked as a hot-air balloon pilot and a costumer in the theater. 

Before her election to City Council in 2007, Madison served on a variety of city panels and task forces, including the Uptown Healthcare District Committee, the Manual High School Redevelopment Council and the Children’s Hospital Redevelopment. She was founder and chair of the City Park Festival of the Arts, a non-profit arts and entertainment festival. Working with the Assistance League of Denver and the Dominican Sisters she worked to provide the elderly with equipment they needed to be safe in their homes.  

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that a gift be made in Carla’s name to District 8 Senior Events (2713 Welton St., Denver, Co. 80205) so the free Ice Cream Social Festival she organized and loved can continue in her memory. The family will provide details of services as soon as they are available.