Tom Strand doesn’t think he has done enough in his first term on the Colorado Springs City Council.
The oldest member of the council at 70, Strand said he’ll be seeking a second four years in the April municipal election to help keep the city’s momentum going, and to keep pushing for his top priorities: mending the council’s relationship with the mayor’s office, improving infrastructure and generating jobs. But a few new priorities are now on that list, he said.
All three at-large councilmen — Strand, Bill Murray and Merv Bennett — are up for election next year, along with first-term Mayor John Suthers. Murray and Suthers have already announced their intent to run, but Bennett will be forced out by term limits.
Candidates have to wait until early January to officially announce they are seeking office, said City Clerk Sarah Johnson. To make the ballot, candidates must submit the valid signatures of 100 Colorado Springs voters. At-large candidates — who represent the entire city instead of a specific geographic area — run against all other candidates seeking an at-large seat, with the top three finishers taking office.
The first term on council represented a learning curve, said Strand, who also serves as chairman of the Colorado Springs Utilities board of directors.
“But that’s OK, I’m not complaining … it was an investment in what I think I can do in the next four years,” Strand said.
A retired Air Force colonel and former member of the Colorado Springs School District 11 board, Strand said the city has made substantial progress in his first term, beginning with increased collaboration between the council and Suthers’ office.
The council unanimously approved the city’s 2019 budget last month and canceled its annual budget markup meeting in September for what is believed to be the first time. Many attributed that painless process to improved collaboration.
The city’s roads are also improving thanks to 2C, a ballot issue approved by voters in November 2015 dedicated $250 million evenly split over five years to repair the city’s crumbling streets, gutters and curbs.
Strand said he supports another five years of the 0.62 percent sales tax, though perhaps at a slightly lower rate.
The city is also steadily growing, bringing more jobs along the way, Strand said.
A modified annexation agreement for the massive Banning Lewis Ranch, approved by the council this year, is expected to lead to the building of about 24,000 homes and an influx of 62,000 people and create tens of thousands of jobs over the next few decades. In addition, four City for Champions projects, two of which are underway, are expected to draw out-of-state visitors, bringing cash to Colorado Springs and creating jobs.
“You’ve gotta keep the momentum going,” Strand said. “Four years is not enough to where you can take the foot off the gas.”
If elected to another term, Strand said he wants to add more police officers, tackle the city’s stark affordable housing shortage and boost Utilities’ solar portfolio.
Strand said he’ll not only draw on past experience on the council, but also his nearly month-long experience this summer at Harvard’s Senior Executives in State and Local Government program.
There, Strand said he and fewer than 60 other public officials and government employees gathered at the John F. Kennedy School of Government to learn about the unique and common challenges facing governments across the country and internationally.
Learning alongside mayors, school board members, police officers, firefighters and others, Strand said the program provided him “a better understanding of how we’re all connected.”
Strand said he’ll be able to draw on that experience and his new contacts to think laterally about the issues facing Colorado Springs, comparing those challenges to what has or hasn’t worked elsewhere.
Strand and Murray will likely be joined on the ballot by Val Snider, a former at-large councilman who served one term from 2011 to 2015 and Tony Gioia, an Army veteran and former El Paso County planning commissioner. Both Snider and Gioia filed early campaign finance reports with the city clerk, preparing for a campaign.
Terry Martinez, former principal of Will Rogers Elementary School, also said he is “getting a team together” for a possible bid for an at-large seat.