David Shankbone | wikicommons

Pueblo explores electing a mayor

Pueblo voters may soon again answer whether the city should be led by a mayor. Local attorney Nick Gradisar is leading a group that is hoping to take the question to the November ballot.

While the proposal hasn’t come without questions and criticisms, there seems to be broad support, at least from city council, for voters deciding what Pueblo city government looks like. The current model is a seven-member council and full-time city manager, which is not elected.

The major question to Gradisar and his mayoral system supporters is how much a mayor would cost the already cash-strapped city.

“It’ll cost what city council decides it will cost,” Gradisar told council during a work session Monday.

The proposal, as it stands now, would dictate a full-time mayor make an annual salary of $150,000 — which Gradisar says is in line with — and in many instances less than — what other community leaders are making. The salary range of current city manager Sam Azad is between $146,749 and $179,360, while a district court judge makes approximately $159,000.

Pueblo Community College pays its president $180,000. CSU-Pueblo pays its president $225,000 and the Pueblo City Schools superintendent makes $180,000.

The salary is set high to attract somebody who would not need another job, Gradisar said.

There would be additional costs that come along with the mayor’s office. To what extent is to be determined, but Gradisar told city council he believes a mayor’s office could be staffed with the same resources that run the city manager’s office.

Gradisar points out that city council is only a part-time governing body, and that a full-time elected official would bring credibility and accountability to the city.

Councilman Bob Schilling said during the Monday work session a mayor would carry many of the same duties as the city manager, but offer up more credibility to governing bodies and lawmakers in Denver and Washington, D.C.

Pueblo voters decided against a mayor in 2009, but Gradisar says public opinion seems to have shifted since then. Why? Perhaps because Pueblo still faces the same issues it did in 2009, according to Gradisar.

The Pueblo attorney believes the addition of a mayor in Colorado Springs could also be a convincing factor.

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