Headlines aside, people stood out in 2013

You’re probably growing weary of reading how much the City for Champions projects mean to Colorado Springs’ future, and how the initial funding approval provided by far the best feel-good story of 2013.

Most likely, you also aren’t interested in reading more about the past year’s fires, floods and government controversy.

Good, because we feel the same way.

But that doesn’t leave us scrambling for fresh ideas in our final assessment of the past 12 months. For this space, though, one approach stood out.

We need to recognize more people who have been making a difference, especially in the past year or two. Perhaps a few have had some applause, but they deserved more. Others have simply gone about their business, content knowing they have made a difference.

My plan is to single out some of them. Not all, because we don’t have the room — or, to be honest, we haven’t heard all the stories.

Obviously, when an area goes through natual disasters, our elected officials stand out. But this list also includes others who simply have done the right thing. With that, let’s get started:

• Fred Crowley. For more than a decade, the economist who moved here to “retire” — but didn’t — has served as an authoritative voice in analyzing business conditions and trends. While many wanted him to be nothing more than a cheerleader, he insisted on remaining a staunch realist, unwilling to give fluffy assessments that he couldn’t justify. He still insists we can’t have a full recovery unless we can bring back good numbers of manufacturing jobs. Have to admire him for staying the course, and now he’s really retiring. Hopefully he’ll still answer his phone.

• Russ Mallery. Maybe you’ll remember Mallery as the owner of the downtown 7-Eleven store at Pikes Peak and Tejon, speaking out forcefully last summer against the rising problem of vagrancy downtown and in particular outside his business. By drawing attention to the issue, and working with other business owners in the immediate area, Mallery has been able to battle the vagrancy and get help from the city and Downtown Partnership to address solutions.

• Bill and Sally Layton. No reflection on the Black Forest fire should ignore the Laytons, who set aside their own business interests to work with volunteers Jason Hann and Greg Howard in organizing donations and serving food to the firefighters. On the fire’s first day, with obviously no notice or advance organization, they helped provide 500 meals. By that weekend, with the fire effort at its peak, they responded to a plea for help and served 1,200 meals. Truly amazing.

• Pikes Peak Area Rotary Clubs. While much of the relief emphasis understandably was funneled toward victims and families directly impacted by the fire and floods, local Rotary Clubs turned their focus toward small businesses. Many weren’t destroyed but lost enough revenue and clientele to threaten their livelihood. That inspired the Rotarians to give $1,000 grants to a at least a dozen of those businesses, first in Black Forest and then to some Manitou Springs businesses that suffered flood damage. And yes, that $1,000 made a difference to each of them.

• Sallie Clark. Granted, the county commissioner is a high-profile public official, and it’s her job to represent her constituents. But for more than a year, Clark also has devoted herself to dealing with the political hurdles in Washington, doing all in her power to bring as much federal relief money to the region as possible for fire and flood mitigation. Her persistence, to the point of testifying before a Senate subcommittee in November, has raised awareness in D.C. and could lead to congressional action (yes, even in the current, polarized climate).

• Marc Snyder. As mayor of Manitou Springs the past four years, Snyder has presided over thorny issues, such as resolving legal public access to the Manitou Incline and addressing the matter of medical and, more recently, recreational marijuana sales in the town. Just maintaining a calm, steady control through those matters was hard enough. But his leadership never was more valuable than last summer after floods hit downtown Manitou, when law enforcement and other officials strongly urged Snyder to close the town for a few days. Snyder steadfastly refused, not wanting to further harm the local businesses that might not have survived, and many hundreds of volunteers responded in a herculean effort to clean up the flood damage and keep the town going. But if not for Snyder, it might have gone a different way.

People making a difference. That’s the common thread.

So if you want a different way to remember 2013, now you have it.