Updated: January 29, 2014 at 9:24 am
Saying she does not want to miss out on her children's lives, the city's Chief of Staff Laura Neumann resigned Tuesday, effective March 1.
"For those who are parents, they know that time starts to go by really, really quickly, and I have a 16-year-old and a 14-year-old in high school, and there are only a couple of years left in the house," Neumann said.
Neumann was tapped by Colorado Springs Mayor Steve Bach to be his chief of staff in December 2011. At the time, she told Bach she would stay for 18 months, she said. She stayed for 25 months before announcing her plans to leave.
Neumann will be replaced by 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.
Council president Keith King said he was surprised by Neumann's resignation but wished her the best.
"This job is very challenging and demanding to try to work with all the different forms of government," he said. "I know she tried to do a good job."
Neumann, who had worked for Benchmark Hospitality International for 24 years and rose to general manager of Cheyenne Mountain Resort, never imagined she would be a city's chief of staff, she said.
"I don't have a lot of singular accomplishments as an individual," she said. "My accomplishments have been through the team that have stayed on and are very loyal to the city. By the way, there are so many unsung heroes - there are incredible people who work for the city of Colorado Springs."
Neumann saw herself as the protector of the city's 2,180 employees. It was very difficult, for example, for her to break the news in June 2013 to 70 city employees that the city would be outsourcing fleet management, and she became emotional talking about it immediately after.
"She was the glue that held this city together," said council member Jan Martin. "She created a buffer between employees and the mayor. She did a good job."
Neumann earned high praise from Bach in 2013 in the form of a $25,000 bonus. In a prepared statement, Bach said Tuesday her noteworthy accomplishments included balancing the city's nearly $400 million budget and also socking away more than $42 million in the reserve fund - the highest in the city's history.
Neumann said she has no immediate career plans and is not interested in a future in local politics, putting to rest a question of a 2015 mayoral run. She described herself as more of a behind-the-scenes kind of person.
"She will be greatly missed," Bach's press release said.
In October, City Attorney Chris Melcher also announced his resignation, effective Jan. 31. Melcher, too, received a $25,000 bonus in 2013. He said in October that he wanted to return to private practice.
Cox said his love for the city brought him back for a "third tour."
"I have a lot of respect for the mayor and a lot of love for the city. It sounds corny, but it's true," he said Tuesday. "There are some things, like the City for Champions that are exciting opportunities."
When Cox retired, he was paid $196,862, which included a severance payout, the value of extended health benefits, vacation payout and sick leave, records show. Cox is also in the Fire and Police Pension Association system. He will continue to draw that retirement pay, a city spokeswoman confirmed Tuesday.
Cox said Bach called him and asked him to take Neumann's place, and he couldn't pass up the challenge. He will be paid the same salary as Neumann: $186,945.
Cox also served as interim city manager in 2011, when the city was transitioning from a council-manager form of government to a council-mayor form of government. Martin, who also was on council at that time, said Cox was a logical choice.
"During that first year of transition, he was the go-to guy," she said.
Cox, who recently has been working with Re/Max Properties, Inc., said he will put his real estate license on ice and be a full-time devoted city employee. He acknowledged the strain between the city's executive and legislative branches under the new form of government. But he said he hopes his experience with the city can ease that tension.
"My plan is to reach out to council and get to know them," he said.