The city and its enterprises employ thousands of people. Every day some of them quit, get promoted or migrate from one department to another — and it’s not news.
Unless you’re a department head, a member of Council or spectacularly fired, the jackals of the media don’t much care.
But if you’re Aimee Cox, we’re interested.
Cox, a former member of the Manitou Springs City Council, has served as the Colorado Springs City Council administrator since 2011. An 11-year city employee, she has smoothed ruffled feathers, defused a thousand crises, and superbly guided Council through the combative tumult of the past two years. Without Cox, the all-too-frequent disagreements between Mayor Steve Bach and Council would have escalated into bitter and permanent warfare.
To the newbies on Council and in the mayor’s office, Cox has been more than an effective administrator. She’s a trustworthy confidante, a reliable source of unbiased information, and deeply knowledgeable about city codes, ordinances and practices.
Times change. At 5:48 p.m. last Friday, Cox announced that she would leave her job as Council administrator on June 15 to accept a position with Mayor Bach’s office as a senior economic vitality advisor. (See interview with Cox on page 4.)
This wasn’t a simple case of Cox being offered a better job and taking it.
When Keith King suddenly became Council president, just after he and five other newcomers were elected to district seats in April, he may have seen Cox as one whose attachments and loyalties were to the former City Council hierarchy. He appeared to see Cox as a low-level administrative assistant at his beck and call, 24/7. He even told Mayor Bach, we hear, that he wanted to get rid of her.
King and Bach have some superficial similarities. They’ve been in town for decades, they’ve had successful careers in business, they’re conservative Republicans and they hold the top two posts for elected officials in the city government.
But they’re not as similar as you might think. King was a waterbed merchant, while Bach was a commercial real estate broker. King went to work every morning, unlocked the door and attended to customers. He had a product to sell, a payroll to meet and a business to grow. With a decent market niche and hard work, he prospered.
Bach’s business was a lot tougher. All he had was an office, a telephone and a reputation. He had to bring together skeptical buyers and sellers, negotiate complex deals and only get paid at the closing table. If King was a friendly Labrador greeting customers at the door, Bach was a restless coyote looking for his next meal.
The predator struck. Bach knows how good Aimee Cox is, and he also knows that Cox is widely admired and appreciated by the young professionals whom the city is trying to retain and attract. By offering her a good position, he retained a great employee and bolstered his political capital.
Did King foolishly cripple Council and create unnecessary administrative turmoil? Is he about to compound that mistake by offering Cox’s job to a political crony? Or is he playing a deeper game?
It’s widely rumored that King wants to replace Cox with his recent campaign manager, Daniel Cole.
Cole is smart, competent — and utterly inexperienced in city government. He’s a masterful partisan political operator. He’s the kind of hire that aldermen make in Chicago, where jobs are distributed as political spoils, and where personal loyalty is everything.
On the face of it, that would seem to be a political blunder. Colorado Springs city government has long been carefully nonpartisan, staffed by folks chosen for their competence and experience, not their political credentials.
Selecting Cole would trigger an avalanche of protests from moderates, liberals and good government folks. So what? Hiring Cole would play well with the conservative Republican base, and King may not be done with partisan politics.
If the organizations attempting to recall Sen. John Morse gather enough signatures to force a recall election, Republicans will need a candidate to oppose the Democratic incumbent. Who better than King, who served for years under the Dome, and just won a nonpartisan election? He’d revel in the partisan cut and thrust, and might even replace Morse as Senate president, should the liberal excesses of the current Legislature put the Republicans back in power after the 2014 election.
It may seem far-fetched, but a politician as experienced as King doesn’t make egregious political mistakes. Kicking Aimee Cox to the curb makes no sense — but replacing a Manitou liberal with a committed young conservative might be just what the doctor ordered.