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Bach names attorney, airport manager and deputy chief of staff for Colorado Springs

By: monica mendoza
March 5, 2014 Updated: March 5, 2014 at 8:30 pm
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Dan Gallagher, interim director, Colorado Springs Airport September 30, 2013. Photo by Kent Nishimura

Mayor Steve Bach made three appointments Wednesday that he hopes will bring stability to the city administration and improve relations with the City Council.

Bach named Bret Waters as the deputy chief of staff - a new position that will work directly with the City Council, Bach said.

He also promoted deputy city attorney Wynetta Massey to city attorney. She replaces Chris Melcher, who had a contentious relationship with the current and former City Council and resigned Jan. 1. Massey has been the interim city attorney since Jan. 3.

Last year, Massey was assigned to work with the City Council, and Bach felt she had a good rapport with council members.

"I believe she is apolitical," Bach said. "This would be a settling, good calming effect as opposed to my bringing in someone from outside who might not be fully acceptable."

And finally, after a year of turning down Bach's offer to become the director of aviation, Dan Gallagher agreed to take the position. Gallagher has been the interim director for nearly a year but he had said many times that he was happy as the No. 2 guy.

"It was a new form of government," Gallagher said. "There were a lot of distractions and a lot of changes that, based on my experience, I would rather try to avoid getting into that political arena. But things seemed to smooth out, and the staff at the airport has been tremendous."

Bach, who has one year left in his four-year term, said he is happy to promote internal candidates. He said he knows it was a difficult decision for them because a new mayor could come in and appoint new directors.

Bach said he still is undecided about running for a second term.

"Normally I wouldn't appoint permanent people right now because one of the problems with government is people know this guy may be gone in a year," he said. "It's hard to get people to step up and take a permanent position -- it puts them right in the bull's-eye. They are all three willing to do it."

Massey and Gallagher's appointments are contingent on City Council confirmation. Council has 30 days to begin the confirmation process and 90 days to complete it. However, City Council President Keith King said he expects council could vote on whether to confirm in two weeks.

Gallagher was named interim aviation director after Mark Earle resigned in March 2013 amid a disagreement over how the airport should try to attract more passengers and airline service.

Bach named Gallagher as interim director, set up an airport task force and hired a marketing consultant after airport numbers showed steady decline in the number of passengers and Frontier Airlines pulled out of the airport.

This week, the airport and Allegiant Air announced the resumption of nonstop flights between Colorado Springs and Phoenix. Gallagher said more air service efforts are in the works.

"We've really changed the dynamics at the airport - the recent announcement of added air service - a lot of that was based on our changes," Gallagher said. "So finally, I agreed."

Gallagher, if confirmed by the council, will receive a 10 percent promotional salary increase, raising his salary to $145,991.

One of the major conflicts between Bach and the City Council had been the former city attorney Chris Melcher. In April, Massey was assigned to work exclusively with the council after members expressed concerns that they were not getting timely or unbiased legal advice from Melcher. Council complained that Melcher's advice was slanted toward the mayor's political positions.

In September, the council publicly reprimanded Melcher and docked his pay by $4,000. Melcher announced his resignation in October and stayed on until January.

"Wynetta is a tremendous step forward and that is going to work out very well for improved communication between the mayor and council," King said. "I am hopeful we continue to get information from her that is balanced."

Massey said it is not the city attorney's job to tell the mayor or the council which way to go on policy. She said city attorneys will not engage in public relations, operations or politics.

"We are really working hard to restore the city attorney to being the attorney's office," she said. "You ask us a question. Our job is to research, analyze it and give you information back so that you, the operational or elected official, can make your own decision."

As interim city attorney, Massey's salary was $139,277. Her new salary will be set by the City Council as part of the confirmation process.

Bach added the deputy chief of staff position in the 2014 budget. He previously had the money set aside for a director of economic vitality, but felt he was better suited to serve in that role.

In late January, chief of staff Laura Neumann resigned and Bach announced her replacement would be Steve Cox, a former Colorado Springs fire chief who also served as chief of staff and chief economic vitality before he retired in July 2012.

Bach said one of his administration's deficiencies has been communication with the City Council. He said starting this month, he will meet with council members, two at a time, in an effort to improve communications.

But he's hoping that Waters as the deputy chief of staff will become a liaison between the two branches of government.

"If I can have both Steve Cox and Bret Waters in dialogue with City Council to give them information and get from them on a real time basis, what are their needs? I think we can improve our relationship," Bach said.

Waters will serve in a dual role as deputy chief of staff and director of the office of emergency management, something he said was important to him. In the 2014 budget, the City Council approved the addition of a deputy director in the office of emergency management. The city is interviewing candidates for that position now, he said.

Waters will receive a 10 percent promotional salary increase, raising his salary to $136,752.

Waters said it was an easy decision for him to take on the new role. He is not concerned, he said, that Bach has only one year left in his term.

"We have a great team - there is a lot of cohesion within the city of Colorado Springs," he said. "We have a great executive staff. Feeling supported and knowing we can accomplish great things was definitely the tipping point in the sense of who I worked for and who I worked with."

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