A term limit is forcing Colorado Springs Mayor Lionel Rivera out, so by sometime next year, probably sooner rather than later, his seat will become the most sought-after, woefully under-minimum-wage job in the city.
Already, there is one candidate: Tim Leigh.
For the measly $6,250 Colorado Springs pays its top elected official, candidates have to have already made their money to take on this public service job.
Leigh has built the successful commercial brokerage firm of Hoff and Leigh and is selling the business to his daughter and son-in-law.
Leigh is a progressive and creative thinker, as well as a good marketer who, at times opens his mouth and what comes out requires the obligatory 21st century image rehabilitator: the apology. I do, however appreciate Leigh’s candor and his straightforward approach.
There are some of Colorado Spring’s business and political heavy-hitters who are working with Leigh. Lorne Kramer, former Colorado Springs Police chief and city manager, and Steve Schuck of the Schuck Corp. are backing Leigh.
Kramer and Schuck’s first responsibility should be to make sure that when Leigh is being interviewed by a reporter, he avoids certain statements. As Leigh says, “I know I need to tone down my big, fat, flappy mouth.”
But what I worry about is that Leigh will become so afraid of speaking his mind, he’ll come across as yet another pre-programmed robot-candidate. Already, his platform sounds more scripted than a TV news anchor and more homogenized than white milk: He is for — can you imagine? — transparent government, jobs, sustainable long-term financing for the city, public safety, quality of life. (Try to find a candidate opposed to any of those.)
That’s not to say Leigh is without original thought.
He is talking about holding monthly meetings with community stakeholders, even reaching out to Colorado Springs’ young people to determine what steps the city can take to keep them in the community and in the Springs work force. Leigh plans to be the advocate and encourager, speaking to community organizations and traveling to promote the Springs.
But what Leigh will have to realize is that the qualities of his personality that made him a successful salesman are not the same as the qualities a civic leader needs. A salesman tries to please everybody; a true leader grasps that popularity is a luxury he cannot afford, that angering some in the pursuit of progress is a price he must pay. But, the largest part of change is realizing your own blind-spots and Leigh knows where his are.
Besides, the city could use a big jolt of straight talk and self-deprecating humor. Our mayor shouldn’t take himself or herself so seriously that all the fun drains away.
Leigh, who often claimed to be the city’s best salesperson, says he wants to be a fresh voice that will bring together people of differing opinions. 2C is an example he uses of bringing the pro and con side together to come up with a solution for the city. Too bad, too little, too late on 2C.
Leigh’s run at the mayor’s office will be called “Imagine the Possibilities.” I am imagining the fun he would create and the difference he would make in city hall. Mr Leigh, just remember to count to 10 before responding to a question.
Lon Matejczyk is publisher of the Colorado Springs Business Journal. He can be reached at Lon.Matejczyk@csbj.com or 329-5202.