Mary Lou Makepeace came to Colorado in the early 1970s as a caseworker working on child abuse cases and an administrator for the El Paso County Department of Social Services. Her work in the nonprofit world began when she became the Executive Director of the Community Council of the Pikes Peak Region, which established programs like a homeless shelter and Project COPE, designed to assist the elderly and the poor with their utility bills. That agency’s interactions with City Council got her interested in city government, and in 1985 she was appointed to fill a council seat that was being vacated. She remained on the Colorado Springs City Council for 12 years, where she had a reputation as a voice of reason during some contentious times. She was the Executive Director of the adolescent child placement agency STAY from 1995-1997. As councilmember, Makepeace helped form The Colorado Springs Women’s Network in response to the growing number of women who voiced concerns about discrimination against women.
Makepeace was elected Colorado Springs’ first female mayor in 1997 and served two full terms. Colorado Springs had been Ground Zero for Amendment 2, which restricted what cities could do in terms of offering equal benefits, equal opportunity, and equal protection for gay and lesbian citizens. It was ultimately overturned, and under Makepeace’s leadership as mayor, the Colorado Springs City Council passed several equality measures, including domestic-partner health benefits. The city’s first female municipal judges were appointed by Mayor Makepeace. She had a substantial impact on the community through her tireless efforts as the city’s most senior public servant.
After leaving public office, Makepeace was driven by her beliefs in equality, diversity, and inclusivity to become the Executive Director of The Gay and Lesbian Fund for Colorado, whose mission is to enhance Colorado’s equality of life. She has been responsible for awarding an annual average of $2 million to hundreds of nonprofit organizations across Colorado and helping those organizations grow, flourish, and succeed while collectively instigating a cultural shift to inclusivity and equality for all citizens, building healthy families, and encouraging civic involvement. Makepeace is an outspoken supporter of organizations that build strength in women and is particularly involved in the Latina Initiative and Denver’s Mi Casa Resource Center for women, both of which foster women’s self-sufficiency and encourage education and participation in the electoral process.