Colorado Springs Mayor Steve Bach ended speculation Monday about whether he would run for re-election, announcing that he decided to stick to an earlier pledge to serve just one term.
Bach, 71, said Monday that he made the decision last weekend with his wife, Suzi, after "talking through the pros and cons" of another four years in office.
"I believe I have learned over the decades when it's time to step aside and pass the ball to the next person to take the operation forward," Bach said. "I've been thinking about this for some time, of course, as anybody would, and I've tried to put it out of my mind these last months as we have worked on the 2015 budget process with City Council."
The mayor said he was not deterred by any of the announced candidates in the mayor's race or by the need to raise money for a campaign. He also said he won't endorse anyone for mayor or City Council because he believes it would be improper. Four candidates have formally announced their intentions to run for mayor. The winner of the April 7 election will be sworn in on April 21 unless no candidate receives at least 50.1 percent of the vote, in which case Bach's successor will be sworn in on June 2.
Bach was elected in 2011 as the city's first strong mayor under a new form of government that voters approved in 2010. Since then, he has often butted heads with City Council, found himself at odds with a group pushing for a regional stormwater plan and come under fire for firing dozens of employees and paying more than $590,000 in severance pay from August 2013 to September 2014, including $91,867 to former City Attorney Chris Melcher.
Supporters say he took some unpopular stands for the good of the city.
"Without any question, his biggest accomplishment was to put the city back on a positive course," said Colorado Springs developer and Bach supporter Steve Schuck.
Businessman and former City Councilman Richard Skorman, who ran against Bach in 2011, reacted with criticism and praise.
"Steve's legacy won't be his collaboration with other elected officials or his willingness to compromise and trust," Skorman said in an email. "His opposition to 1B (stormwater) may have been the reason it lost - which could negatively impact our region for decades to come.
"But Steve was a great community leader during the Waldo fire and he initiated some really innovative programs like having community service officers sent out on nonemergency calls and providing health care at fire stations."
Bach said several times that he wouldn't run for a second term, but in February he hinted that he might make another run to "see City for Champions through." City for Champions is a package of four proposed tourism-related projects that Bach supports.
On Monday, Bach reiterated that when he sought the mayor's office in 2011, he said he likely would be a one-term mayor because "I knew coming into a new form of government, as the first person in that position, there would be a lot of tough decisions to make, hard decisions that would be tumultuous and would create some conflict."
He said he believes he accomplished his goal of moving the city away "from a regulatory agency mindset" and making it a more business- and citizen-friendly government.
The former commercial real estate agent also acknowledged that he is "a lousy politician."
"I honestly said when I ran that I am a businessman and not a politician, and I have struggled to come across in a more diplomatic way," he said.
Bach said he hopes to continue working outside of elected office to help the local economy.
"I'm still concerned about our unemployment level, especially in southeast Colorado Springs," he said. "People are unemployed and underemployed."
Despite the rocky road created by the change in the city's form of government from one headed by a city manager appointed by the council to a strong elected mayor, Bach said it was "exactly the right decision," and that he couldn't "imagine being able to accomplish 90 percent of what we have if we had the old form of government where you had to vote on everything and get five people to approve it."
He said he hopes the candidates for mayor and council will focus on how the city can attain long-term fiscal health without compromising core services, and offered a word of advice to his successor:
"Be prepared to make tough decisions because they're out there and they're still in front us. Don't sweat the small stuff. Just keep moving forward and at the end of the day, just do the right thing."
Contact Wayne Heilman: 636-0234