Colorado Springs voters only elected one new face in the Tuesday election, and he’s not that new.
Former Secretary of State Wayne Williams will join at-large Councilmen Bill Murray and Tom Strand, while Mayor John Suthers also was re-elected in a landslide victory, City Clerk Sarah Johnson reported Tuesday evening.
Suthers secured 61,830 of the 83,980 votes cast in the mayoral race. Second to him was Juliette Parker with just 8,707 votes, according to Johnson’s office.
Challengers to Suthers, the state’s former attorney general, lacked government experience, and two of them moved to the city within the past three years. When he was elected in 2015, the race went to a runoff election between Suthers and former Mayor Mary Lou Makepeace.
“There will be no runoff this year,” Suthers said with a grin as he took the stage in The Gold Room for his campaign party.
The council race was more crowded and diverse. A former councilman sought a second term, and a former state representative also vied for a council seat. Other candidates included a student at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, a founder of a nonprofit serving at-risk youth and a former building superintendent.
Suthers, 67, has said he focused his first term on developing a collaborative relationship with the council and improving the city’s roads and stormwater program. During his first term, voters approved a sales tax to improve deteriorating streets, curbs and gutters and later voted to resurrect monthly stormwater fees charged to property owners.
Many have said the council’s relationship with the mayor has dramatically improved since former Mayor Steve Bach was replaced, as evidenced in the city’s streamlined budget process under Suthers' leadership.
Tuesday night, Suthers thanked those who have helped him along the way, shouting out to one couple at his party whose lawns he mowed when he was a teenager in the '60s.
“It’s not easy,” he said of the city’s executive post. “There are serious sacrifices, and the criticism never stops.”
The city’s infrastructure and services must be further improved because they are sure to be “challenged to meet the growth and prosperity that will come in the years ahead,” he said.
Suthers has said he will seek to renew the roads tax, but at a lower rate than the current 6.2 cents per $10 purchase. He said he’ll also concentrate on adding to the city’s insufficient affordable housing.
Williams campaigned on his local and statewide experience. Before he was elected secretary of state, he served one term as an El Paso County clerk and recorder and two terms as a county commissioner. He secured the most votes of any council candidate Tuesday, 42,256.
Williams has said his focus will be to improve the city’s transportation and add affordable housing by reducing fees and other administrative costs for developers.
After hearing of his all-but-certain victory as votes still were being counted, Williams said he was gratified and humbled that so many supported him. Soon, he said, he’ll speak with the rest of the council to establish on which committees or other groups his experience might best serve the city.
He said he also must touch base with his new colleagues to discuss their role as the board of Colorado Springs Utilities. A strong priority on the utility board is to “make sure we build the infrastructure and generation so (the coal-fired Martin) Drake (Power Plant) can be retired in the 2020s,” he said.
Murray, the council’s chief voice of dissent, collected 27,677 votes. He often speaks of unintended consequences. With a second term, Murray said, he will seek leadership positions on the council and Utilities board.
Tuesday’s results were a grade on his first term, Murray said, noting that he spent only $1,100 on his campaign, while Williams and Strand spent at least 20 times that.
The first order of business is to level with the rest of the council and set priorities moving forward, he said.
“To look at each other, face to face, and say, ‘OK, I’ve got four more years, and you all have two.' And see how they want to come out of the chute.”
Murray earlier said he wants to further increase transparency by city officials and rely increasingly on data-driven analysis to influence how departments are run.
Strand not only retained his seat with 27,842 votes, but also will remain the oldest council member at age 70, a fact he often jokes about. Strand often casts a swing vote, waiting until all witnesses and city staff have been heard before deciding on issues.
In his first term, Strand served as president of the Utilities board, but he said he won’t seek the position again.
“I kind of think we ought to rotate the top positions every two years,” he said.
With a second term, Strand said, his goals are to hire up to 120 new police officers, add a hazardous materials team to the Fire Department and further help homeless people.
Tuesday evening’s vote counts are unofficial. Johnson said the results won’t be certified until mid-April, after which the council members and Suthers will take their oaths of office.