Former Colorado Springs Mayor Mary Lou Makepeace stood at the podium Wednesday before a crowd of about 80 people and simply said, "I'm in."
For months, people have speculated whether Makepeace, the city's first female mayor, would jump into the race for mayor in 2015. It's a new job and a different city charter since she was elected mayor in 1997. The mayor is now the city's CEO, and the job pays $96,000 a year.
Makepeace, 73, said she loves this city and she is concerned about its future.
"How many of you have said, 'somebody should do something?' Well, I have decided that I am somebody and that I can do something," she said to the crowd.
Makepeace joins a field of candidates that includes El Paso County Commissioner Amy Lathen, outgoing Attorney General John Suthers and political newcomer Justine Herring, a real estate broker.
Makepeace, who served on the City Council for 12 years before being elected mayor, said she would focus on young professionals and neighborhoods, growing business and a better partnership with the City Council and county commissioners.
"We must find ways to lead this community together," she said. "We need more positive voices from our leaders."
Makepeace most recently was the executive director of the Gill Foundation's Gay and Lesbian Fund for Colorado. She now is on the faculty at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs and teaches political science. She has picked up an enthusiastic group of seasoned and young professionals who attended her mayoral announcement and pledged to help her campaign.
Councilwoman Jan Martin was the first to publicly endorse Makepeace, saying her experience and understanding of the city would benefit Colorado Springs as it tries to define its new form of government.
"I think she could help to collaborate, so we could all sit together around a table and determine how best to make this new form of government work," Martin said. "It's not us and them with Mary Lou, it's us together."
Under the council-mayor form of government - also known as a strong-mayor form - that voters approved in 2010, the legislative and executive branches have clashed mostly over the city's budget and which branch has authority. Some of the gnashing is caused by vague language in the charter, and some is caused by a difference in opinion. Some council members have accused the former and current city attorneys of writing opinions that benefit the mayor, who has the power to hire and fire the city attorney.
Resident Lindsay Deen, 30, who grew up in Colorado Springs and regularly attends council meetings, said she has grown weary of the clash between the council and the mayor and is looking to Makepeace to bridge the communication gap, she said.
"Collaboration, anyone ever heard of it?" she asked. "My vision is for a City Council and mayor to work together to create a successful city because right now we are four to six years away from bankruptcy, and that is a big problem that needs to be addressed."
Downtown business owner Hannah Parsons attended the Makepeace announcement and said her family moved to the Springs 10 years ago but recently was wondering "at what cost will we stay here?" Parsons, who said she supports Makepeace, believes the city can be a great place for career and family.
"However, for that to happen, we need to see a dramatic shift in this city away from power and toward leadership," she said. "Leadership that earns authority through transparency, understanding and trust."
Mayor Steve Bach, the first mayor elected under the new form of government, has not said publicly if he will run for re-election. At a meeting with a Republican group in August, Bach said, "I'm 99 percent sure it's something I don't want to do again."
Bach has not returned numerous calls since September seeking comment on this issue and others.
Makepeace said citizens voted for the council-mayor form of government. It works in other communities, she said, and it can work in Colorado Springs.
"I've reached out to council and set up meetings with each one because I want to know from them what they would like to see and what they would like from the mayor," she said.
Contact Monica Mendoza: 636-0187