Denver Mayor Federico Penåa (D), one of the nation's most prominent Hispanic elected officials and Denver's first Hispanic mayor, has announced he will not seek a third term next year.

Penåa called his tenure "the most thrilling and rewarding time of my life," but added, "I am going to graciously step aside. . . . Sometimes people in public office continue to run and run and run, and I don't think that's what voters want. More of us in public office ought to say, 'It's time.' "

Penåa, 43, won election in 1983 on the theme, "Imagine a Great City," but Denver then slid into a real estate bust when the price of oil plummeted. He narrowly won reelection in 1987 and survived a recall petition drive the following year.

Penåa last week said he had accomplished much of what he set out to do, including building a convention center that opened this year and the start on construction of a $3 billion airport, to be completed in 1993. He said his biggest disappointments are street gangs and his administration's "inability to revitalize downtown."

In the long line of Democratic and GOP candidates forming to succeed Penåa are several black and female political leaders, including a Hispanic woman, causing one pundit to say, "The question is who's not running for mayor, instead of who is."