The Steel City at long last gets a mayor — and a higher profile?
Author: Dan Njegomir - November 9, 2017 - Updated: November 9, 2017
It’s the original metropolis of southern Colorado, the gateway to the lower Arkansas Valley, and it can boast a number of things other cities in the state don’t have. A steel mill. A bona fide riverwalk, as well. And, arguably, the best homegrown chiles anywhere. (Take that, Hatch, N.M.!)
Yet, for a city that has been on the map for so long and that occupies such a prominent place in the state’s history — lying as it does along what was once the fault line between Spanish America and Anglo America — Pueblo curiously enough has lacked one thing that Denver and, more recently, Colorado Springs could claim: a mayor.
That changed with Tuesday’s election. Puebloans voted by a modest margin to reconfigure their municipal government and establish an elected mayor. A “strong mayor,” to be precise — one who not only will run the city as its full-time chief exec but who also, some hope, will provide renewed leadership and vision to enhance the city’s profile.
The Pueblo Chieftain’s longtime chronicler of local politics, Peter Roper, fills in the details of this awaited development:
With nearly 22,000 votes cast, 52 percent of city voters supported the change.
Voters will choose their first mayor next November and that fact undoubtedly has hopefuls thinking about when and how to run for the new job. The mayor will take office in January 2019. …
… Pueblo’s mayor will have a $150,000 salary and will choose city department heads. The mayor will draft the city’s budget and is expected to have an agenda of city policies or improvements to accomplish.
Nick Gradisar, the lawyer who once again led the mayor campaign, said that is the key attraction. Voters want someone whose job it is to get things done.
Of course, apropos such a close vote on the proposal, there are skeptics. Among them, Roper reports, is former City Manager Lew Quigley, who foresees partisan troubles even though the new post will technically be nonpartisan like all municipal offices in Colorado:
“When you’ve got a community where one political party dominates elections, I’m afraid the mayor’s office will become another extension of that party,” he said, meaning Pueblo County Democrats.
No word yet on who might be the first to toss a hat into the ring for the job. Stay tuned.