Steve Cox, a longtime employee with the City of Colorado Springs who worked his way up the ranks in the Fire Department and then moved into the inner sanctum of the Bach administration, announced his retirement Wednesday.
The news of his retirement, effective July 31, comes on the heels of a federal civil rights lawsuit alleging that Cox had instituted a “policy of discrimination” at the city against older female employees when he became interim city manager in 2010.
Cox said the lawsuit filed by Terri Velasquez, the city’s former chief financial officer, had nothing to do with his decision to leave.
Cox, 51, said he had been thinking about retiring “for a little while” and that now “just felt right” after a nearly 32-year career with the city.
“My wife and I have never really stopped to smell the roses, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to stop being involved in the community,” he said. “I think there’s still a lot of opportunities for volunteerism and then we’ll see what kind of business opportunities might pop up.”
Cox said he and Mayor Steve Bach talked about the possibility of doing consulting work for the city in the future on big projects.
“I feel like with him I made a friend for life. We got close,” he said, adding that Bach tried to talk him into staying.
Cox has served in various leadership roles at the city, including fire chief, interim city manager and interim chief of staff for Bach. Cox retired as fire chief in December before becoming the mayor’s chief of economic vitality and innovation.
“Steve Cox has been instrumental in many of our accomplishments this past year,” Bach said in a statement.
“I hate to see him go and tried to talk him into at least another year,” he said. “His service to our City was tremendous and truly appreciated. I respect his decision though – Steve deserves time to concentrate on all things family. I’ll miss him, but we’ll be in touch.”
Council President Pro Tem Jan Martin said Cox proved ready to take on whatever role the city needed.
“He’s more than once stepped into the gap to help us transition from one step to the next,” Martin said.
Chief of Staff Laura Neumann called Cox a “world-class professional and a dear and decent human being.”
“He will be sorely missed by many; most certainly by me,” she wrote in an email.
Council President Scott Hente praised Cox’s dedication to the city.
“I’ve always thought the world of Steve,” Hente said. “He brought a lot of great leadership to the city. He’ll be sorely missed.”
Councilwoman Brandy Williams praised Cox’s leadership during the Waldo Canyon fire.
“He really helped the community through the fire,” Williams said.
In a statement, the city said Cox has been a “key part” of Bach’s executive team and “will long be remembered as one of the very able City executives during the crises of the Waldo Canyon Fire.”
Cox, whose late step-father retired as deputy fire chief, said his retirement was “kind of surreal” and “a little bit melancholy.”
“But it’s exciting, too, and I’m not one to look back. I make a decision and then I move on,” he said. “But I’m grateful. I’m grateful to the citizens of Colorado Springs that let me serve them as long as I did.”
Staff writer Andrew Wineke contributed to this report.
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