Melcher preparing for his new job as city attorney

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Mayor Steve Bach recently appointed Chris Melcher as city attorney.

Melcher, who graduated from Yale Law School, has been in Colorado Springs since 2006. When he begins his new job in a couple of weeks, he’ll be stepping into a position that had been occupied by the same person for the last 25 years.

Melcher took some time recently to talk to the CSBJ about his profession, his career and his new job.

How long have you lived in Colorado Springs, and what brought you here?

My family and I moved from Denver to Colorado Springs in March 2006 when I was fortunate enough to be given an opportunity to serve as General Counsel to Colorado College. We had visited Colorado Springs many times over the years and were impressed by the vibrant community and physical beauty of this extraordinary place. We had always hoped to live here one day. Now that we are proud residents, we are thankful every day to enjoy all of the wonderful benefits of “The Springs” — the warm and welcoming people, the close-knit neighborhoods, Garden of the Gods, beautiful parks and trails, excellent schools, the community events, a lively downtown, a great library system, The Broadmoor, and the very high quality of life on a day to day basis.

What has been most rewarding to you about practicing law?

Law is first and foremost about serving others and serving the community in which we live. I have always found tremendous satisfaction in using my legal skills and experience to help others find effective solutions to their challenges, solve problems in mutually beneficial ways, and achieve their most important goals. Whether the client is an individual, a business, a nonprofit, or government, a lawyer’s most important contribution is to work very hard to find a way that the client will realize the most beneficial outcome in a timely fashion. Sometimes this is winning an important trial, other times it’s negotiating a successful transaction or contract, still other times it’s finding a way for all the parties to “win” in a mutually beneficial way, and I have enjoyed serving in each of these capacities. It’s often easier for a lawyer to say “no”, the more challenging and rewarding task is to find a way to say “yes,” often through use of creative thinking, thorough research, diligent preparation, and an open mind.

Most great things are achieved through teamwork and collaboration, and it has been personally satisfying to be a member of several groups that worked together to achieve significant accomplishments, both in business and in the nonprofit community. Personally, I strive every day to improve my skills as a lawyer and a person so that I can contribute in new and effective ways, and I look forward to doing that as city attorney.

How do you think your job as legal counsel for a government entity will differ from your work in the past?

There are many similarities between my past work and my upcoming responsibilities as legal counsel for the city, the mayor, and the City Council that should serve me well. For example, I am very familiar serving as an attorney to large and complex organizations that serve hundreds of thousands of people and are heavily regulated in their activities — like Colorado Springs Utilities and Memorial Hospital. My work in the past for small and large technology companies and energy companies, and for the college, all involved helping employees and boards safely and effectively serve their community and their customers while being mindful of a broad array of rules and regulations that govern their day to day efforts. The college for example faces many similar issues to the city, including health law regulation in its medical practice and privacy issues with its educational records. My past experience as a federal prosecutor and a civil litigator will also be very helpful as I oversee the city’s litigation and support the many fine attorneys and staff in the city Attorney’s Office that currently represent the City in court. I think one of the most significant differences may be the volume of work and broad number of issues facing the ity, which likely exceeds that of any other single entity I have previously served. It will also be an important challenge to provide the very best legal advice, in a timely fashion, to a large array of clients, in a manner that is as open as possible while still preserving the attorney client privilege when important. Fortunately, there is a hardworking and professional staff in the City Attorney’s Office to help us achieve this goal. I am humbled by the opportunity Steve Bach and City Council have offered me, and excited to get started.

What would you most like to see change about Colorado Springs?

A sense of community and belonging across our city will help all of us be more effective both in our group efforts and our individual tasks. A spirit of community will help in developing a unity of purpose and collaboration among the many different constituencies in Colorado Springs, and allow us to use our many strengths and talents together in mutually beneficial ways — if we are all pulling in the same direction, there is nothing we can’t achieve. In the past, there were negative messages about our community that created a misleading perception — and this can hurt a community in attracting new business and new jobs, as well as in attracting new residents, particularly young adults and families. If we can find ways to spread the word about the countless positives in our community, and the wonderful attributes of Colorado Springs, we and our children will all benefit.