Opinion: Our mayoral horse race

News  /  Opinion

John Hazlehurst

In two and a half months, Colorado Springs residents will elect a new mayor, and say goodbye to the ferociously competent John Suthers. Sports analogies are in order; losing Suthers to retirement is akin to the Broncos losing John Elway or Peyton Manning. Just as Elway and Manning were among the best quarterbacks ever to play the game, Suthers was one of the best mayors in our city’s long history (if not the best!). Termed out, Suthers is off to a well-deserved retirement, and it’s up to us to choose a reasonably competent replacement.

At this writing, there are half a dozen serious candidates in the race; Sallie Clark, Darryl Glenn, Longinos Gonzales Jr., Yemi Mobolade, Tom Strand and Wayne Williams. Of the six, only Mobolade is a political novice — the other five have served as El Paso County commissioners, city councilors or both.

That said, it’ll be quite a horse race. Mobolade will do his best to get liberals, Democrats and progressives to support him, while trying to be perceived as an apolitical businessman and community leader. Strand and Gonzales may benefit from our community’s fondness for candidates who have served in the military. Six of nine current councilors are military retirees.

Electing a mayor isn’t like electing county commissioners, city councilors or state senators/representatives. We’re not building a team — we’re choosing the city’s CEO.

It’s a lofty, extraordinarily powerful position. It requires not just a glittering résumé, but long experience in our city, state and nation. It’s one thing to be a skilled politician, but it’s another to be a capable, collaborative and trustworthy leader. Here’s my list.

Longtime city resident. You need to know, experience and understand our city through boom and bust. Hop-skipping around Colorado doesn’t count — live here, work here and commit absolutely to this city.

Previous experience as a local elected official. No one starts at the top — you have to pay your dues.

Business experience. Our business community creates and sustains the city’s prosperity and growth. Being business-friendly doesn’t mean catering to the needs of the big dogs, but working for everybody. For me, small business experience is a must.

The respect and affection of your peers. Bob Isaac, Mary Lou Makepeace and John Suthers were widely admired for being honest, direct and trustworthy by those who worked for or with them — and even by those who opposed them.

Age. Opinions differ, but CEOs of established billion-dollar companies tend to be in their 40s, 50s and early 60s. Over 70? Nope. Under 30? Nope, unless you’re my brilliant granddaughter.

Broad experience in state or national governance. To understand bureaucracies you need to experience them directly, whether by working for them or heading them.

Pre-political community activism. Did you volunteer for local nonprofits, stand up for your neighborhood and help others?

In other words, are you a decent, caring person?

And most important of all: Do you have a dog? No dog, no vote….

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