Mike Mazenko will be unpacking his backpack on the east coast

BY FREDA MIKLIN
GOVERNMENTAL REPORTER

Villager columnist Mike Mazenko is moving on. “The time just seems right,” he told us.

Julie and Mike Mazenko came to Colorado in 2003 for an opportunity to teach at a high school he was told would be a great fit. Former Cherry Creek High School Principal Kathleen Smith agreed. That began a 21-year career that included shaping the academic future of over 2,000 young people, including several whose last name is Miklin, as a teacher and administrator in a school he wrote about in his last regular column for The Villager that appeared on page three on March 28. He called it, “The Creek Mystique.” It included some great success stories of Creek alumni.

In addition to the attraction of teaching in a high school where kids were eager to learn and had families who supported that goal, the Mazenkos fell in love with Greenwood Village as a place to raise a family. 

Now that Austin and Chloe, Julie and Mike’s offspring, are attending college in New York and Washington DC, that mission has been accomplished. Chloe is still in her undergraduate years at American University and Austin will be pursuing a Ph.D. in math at New York University. Neither is likely to be back in Colorado soon. Like all parents, the Mazenkos want to be near their children.

A highly accomplished journalist, Mike’s work has been distributed in a wide variety of publications across the country on subjects that include art, music, education, government, the classics, and philosophy. He plans to expand his writing career wherever he and Julie settle on the east coast, now that they’ll have the freedom that comes with stepping away from the demands of daily teaching.

Mike told us about a book idea he has been working on and that he recently presented a paper about at DePaul University in Chicago. “It’s on Henry David Thoreau and punk rock, weaving classic literature and pop culture together,” he explained, “something I’ve taught for years.”

Mike’s first column in this newspaper appeared on February 5, 2021. Dozens of our readers have told us they look forward to reading, “Unpacking the Backpack,” every week. It’s been good for him, too. Mike told us, “Writing a regular column for The Villager has really fueled my writing. Having a deadline is motivating.”

The Mazenkos have lived in Greenwood Village during their entire time in Colorado. They’ve loved the way GV community events bring people together. “When we stopped renting and bought a house, it was in Greenwood Village. We were close enough that my kids and I always walked to school. It’s just been wonderful.” 

He continued, “We went to our first Greenwood Village Day when Austin was two years old and thought, “This is amazing!” adding, “As the kids got older, we took them to GV park and rec events like Art in the Park, Fun in the Sun. During those years, we never missed a GV Fishing Derby, Fall Fest, or a holiday lighting ceremony. It came full circle because Chloe was a recreation aide for the city for five summers, starting after she finished eighth grade.” 

Being an early GV resident included forming friendships with GV’s elected officials. Mike told us,   “My council representatives were Ron Rakowsky (who later became mayor) and Gary Kleeman. I taught two of the Kleeman boys at Creek. I got to know Nancy Sharpe when she was mayor.” 

Mike even ran for GV City Council once. He shared, “I told Ron (Rakowsky) and Gary (Kleeman) that I wasn’t running to win. I ran to raise awareness about public safety in our area that is made up of townhouses. I also wanted to point out the importance of the SRO (student resource officer) program at the schools. The next year, GV made the decision to expand its police force by ten officers over five years. I felt like I raised awareness about security and support for the police and the city really listened.”

He went on, “I loved and respected Ron, Gary, and Nancy as city officials. I felt the same about Tom Bishop, T.J. Gordon, and Gary Kramer, who represented our area of GV after them.”

Mike’s closing reflections were, “Now the city has grown and there’s more traffic. Things have changed since the pandemic. People stay at home more. I hope that new families who move in will feel embraced and brought into the community the way we were. I hope they’ll be able to find housing they can afford and raise their families here the way we did. It is great when people who are part of the community, like teachers and nurses, can live where they work. And I hope GV continues to invest in its parks and recreation programs and the policies that enable families to thrive.”

fmiklin.villager@gmail.com