Five hours after an all-smiles swearing-in ceremony, Colorado Springs’ new City Council tackled its first contentious issue Tuesday – who should be the leaders of the pack.
It ended with unanimity when incumbent Scott Hente was elected president and Jan Martin, also an incumbent, was elected president pro tem.
Getting there, though, sparked the first match-up between the three incumbents – Hente, Martin and Bernie Herpin – and a few of the newly elected council members. Merv Bennett, Lisa Czelatdko, Angela Dougan, Tim Leigh, Val Snider and Brandy Williams were elected April 5 to their first term.
After Hente was elected president and Martin nominated for president pro tem, Leigh said he liked having Hente as president.
But he said he was “somewhat concerned about old guard, new guard.”
Leigh questioned whether one of the newly elected council members should be considered for president pro tem.
“The citizens really made a loud statement about fresh ideas, fresh voices, fresh movement looking forward,” he said.
“This kind of looks de facto. I know it’s not,” he said. “But I do think it’s a conversation we need to have publicly...I think that there’s some real merit to having seasoned veterans as leaders, but I also think there’s some merit to have a new person in the secondary position.”
Dougan, who represents District 2, agreed, saying she heard from voters on the campaign trail who were ready for change. She also said experience was valuable but that the council would benefit from “new ideas” and “fresh blood.”
Martin said the new council does represent “new and fresh leadership” and that she was personally “anxious to move forward with some new ideas and a fresh approach.”
Martin, the top vote-getter in the April 5 election, also said she had worked “really hard for four years to earn a position of leadership” on council and that she expected new leaders to emerge on council over the next two years.
The president and president pro tem will serve two years. They can be removed by a majority vote.
“In two years, we’ll know who those people are,” Martin said. “But for now, I think the city and I think the council will be well-served with somebody who brings experience.”
Snider and Williams sided with the incumbents. “I think it’s important to have some experience at the helm and allow the newer people time to learn the job,” Snider said.
Bennett, who had been suggested for the position of president pro tem before the meeting, said Hente and Martin were both “exceptional leaders.”
“My comments relate to my experience in organizational development and governance,” he said.
“When organizations change their governance structure, often times they put the experienced people back in leadership, but the behavior doesn’t change, and so the full benefit of the governance change wasn’t received. It’s quite common that new leadership can provide that because they’re not inhibited by some of the old paradigms.”
Still, Bennett said existing council members, if elected to positions of leadership, would probably expect the newly elected council members to push them outside the paradigm if the behavior didn’t change.