Tim Leigh is mad, mad, mad at me!! Why? Because I suggested that Sallie Clark would be a better fit as a “strong mayor” come 2011.
Here’s what Tim wrote in his defense.
“I have been asked about my vision for Colorado Springs. It’s simple. My vision includes resetting Colorado Springs as “a world class destination.” If elected Mayor, I intend to spend my term working toward that goal. It seems to me that that is a large part of what’s missing in our city right now; that we have no supervening vision. We’re a rudderless ship bouncing in the rough waters of the global economy with no hope of landing at the port of profitable trade & booming economies.
And if we look to our history to find our future, it’s clear that my vision is merely a restatement of what our founders intended. They settled Colorado Springs as a world class destination and it became one. Now we must reset and reclaim our rightful destiny.
The next question is “how?” John Hazelhurst seems to think the only person who can answer that question is Sallie Clark. Now I like Sallie, and my comments are not meant to disparage her. (See Hazelhurst’s column from last Friday.) But, according to Hazelhurst, Sallie’s the only person “who has all the “necessaries”, including long experience in government and business, a deep pool of passionate supporters, vast political savvy and steely resolve”. He mostly writes-off Buddy Gilmore and me. I gotta tell ya, John, I take issue that you need to have “long experience in government” to run this city. In fact, I’d submit that that’s one of our problems. We need somebody who has been doing something besides government; someone who is not afraid to raise creative, outside-the-box, fresh ideas. “
I’ve heard that mantra before. Remember when Steve Schuck, Bruce Benson, and Marc Holtzman ran for governor, each spending millions of dollars of their own considerable resources in separate, quixotic quests for the state’s highest office? They believed that success in business coupled with no political experience made them uniquely qualified to be governor. The voters disagreed.
Local and state governments are not merely subsets of private enterprise, but a whole different class of organizations. They have different goals, different sources of revenue, and often require different leadership strategies to achieve success.
You wouldn’t expect to become the CEO of a major real estate brokerage with no experience in real estate, would you? If you did, it would be because of closely related business experience, and broad familiarity with the industry.
There have been exceptions. Close to home, Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper was elected despite (or maybe because of) his lack of experience in office. Most agree that he’s done a superb job in difficult circumstances (Tim, I assume that you and Buddy will both be donating to his gubernatorial campaign…right?). But such exceptions don’t disprove the rule.
Every one of our Mayors has previously served a term or two on city council. That’s the place to introduce new ideas, to hone your leadership skills, and gain the confidence and respect of your peers. Either Tim or Buddy would be superb council members…but it’s not much fun to spend four years as a second fiddle for no money. That’s for interns and non – profit volunteers, not visionary leaders!
Because of what amounts to a “perfect storm” of political blunders by our present council, which played out during the deepest recession in memory, it’s improbable that any sitting councilmember could be chosen to lead the city.
Enter Clark, who, as I pointed out, has all the “necessaries” (in Al Campanis’s unfortunate phrase) to be elected to the office.
That’s not to say that Tim couldn’t run and win. He’s a smart, engaging guy who has so far run a solid campaign. But here’s the question: could he run, win, and govern successfully?
As I read it, the “strong mayor” must be an administrator, a boss, a superb politician, and someone with clear, unshakeable focus. He/she will have to schmooze and subtly direct the now-independent council, choose administrators wisely, closely monitor the details of city government, relentlessly promote the city throughout the world (and fly economy while doing it!), create multi-hundred page budgets, and…oh, yeah, the vision thing!
Moreover, he/she will have to do it all under the baleful scrutiny of the media (I can hardly wait).
If Tim had served a term on Council, or on the School Board, or in any elected position, I’d have no doubts about his ability to run the city. Absent such experience, there’s a question mark.
But if Clark declines to run, the position will most likely be Tim’s by default. Politics is all about seizing opportunity and Leigh has done exactly that. Buddy Gilmore’s campaign is invisible so far, and Leigh has commanded the stage without a misstep.
Political experience or not, Tim has learned from Bill Clinton, from Barack Obama, and even from Doug Lamborn.
If you want an office, you go for it. It’s like courting – don’t assume that you’re not worthy until you’re rejected. It may be that the power boys have someone in mind to be the strong mayor, but he/she will be a distant third by summer’s end.
So maybe I’ll vote for Tim, on one condition.
Tim, it’s ‘Hazlehurst’, not ‘Hazelhurst.’