In a move designed to blend business savvy with government experience, Colorado Springs Mayor Steve Bach on Monday named Steve Cox as his chief of staff.
Cox, 50, a Colorado Springs native who has been the city’s fire chief since October 2008, had been filling in as interim city manager for more than a year.
Bach said Cox will fill the chief of staff role on a “transitional basis,” and they will evaluate whether their relationship is working within six months.
“Yes, this is a transitional situation, with the intent of a longer-term relationship if it works out — maybe not unlike getting engaged, I suppose,” Bach said, drawing laughter during a news conference at the City Administration Building downtown.
Cox, who is well-regarded among city employees, has worked for the city for more than 30 years. He said he accepted Bach’s offer because it was “an opportunity to be involved in something exciting.”
“I am familiar with the city system, but make no mistake, we’re operating underneath the mayor’s vision and his strategic leadership, so I see my role as an implementer of his goals, creating action out of that plan,” he said.
Cox, who earned about $182,500 as interim city manager, will receive the same salary as chief of staff, said Bach, who makes about $96,000 annually as mayor. The chief of staff position was created with the voter-approved change to the strong-mayor form of government.
Cox will act as a chief operating officer and oversee the police and fire departments, finance, human resources and the City Clerk’s Office, allowing Bach to focus on communications and economic development, which he calls economic vitality.
“What we’re doing here is we’re blending someone who comes from the private sector — myself — with marketing and communications experience and some general management experience but who has no experience in government, with someone who has spent a lifetime in government,” Bach said. “I think that’s an interesting combination.”
Cox was among 17 candidates considered for the job.
Council President Pro Tem Jan Martin said Cox was the right choice.
“Steve (Cox) brings with him an understanding of the old and hopefully of the new,” she said.
“The city employees have a lot of respect for Steve, so as we move forward and make changes, I think Steve will be a good one to help lead the city into that transition,” she said.
Bach said Cox is not only open-minded but enthusiastic about change.
“He’s not only someone who is clearly very expert in government administration — of course, he’s seasoned having been through what he’s been through here in this city. But I want to tell you, most importantly to me, as I really thought about Steve Cox, I find him to be very entrepreneurial,” Bach said.
“We’ve had lots of discussions so far about how can we make this city government better, how can we be more effective, more efficient, how can we empower our employees, how can we deliver the best possible service for every tax dollar we spend.”
Cox said he believes he and Bach will make a good team.
“I’m convinced that we’re going to make great things happen with the community,” he said as his wife of 31 years, Juli, stood by his side.
Bach also announced Monday that Stephannie Finley, president of governmental affairs and public policy for the Greater Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce, will be an “executive-on-loan” for a month.
“Stephannie will be with us on a full-time basis … and expressly for the purpose of helping us look at the communications function to decide how to best organize that and also to be the lead in helping us attract candidates for that position,” he said.
Earlier this month, Cox asked Sue Skiffington-Blumberg, head of the city’s public communications office, to resign.
Finley, who will work in the City Administration Building, will advise Bach and “contribute her ideas on a number of levels,” Bach said.
“Stephannie has experience in organizing a freshman congressman’s office. I am a freshman mayor, so I appreciate the extra help, in addition to the great help we already have,” Bach said.
Dave Csintyan, chamber president and CEO, called Finley a relationship management specialist.
“The genius of Stephannie Finley is her understanding of the environment she operates in, the ability to build consensus, to draw the right individuals into the conversation,” he said.
Finley will sign a confidentiality agreement “so that what she learns here will stay here,” Bach said.
“I knew that would happen anyway, but just so everyone understands, we want to be totally open and transparent,” he said.