If Marcy Morrison could have hand-picked the City Council when she was mayor of Manitou Springs from 2002 to 2006, one name that would have rose to the top of the list was Mark Morland.
“He was young, collaborative, and he cared,” she said. “He always did his homework, and when he had a comment, it was well thought out.”
Morland died last week in Colorado Springs at age 58 of complications from Huntington’s disease.
After two close but unsuccessful bids for a state House seat when he was in his mid-20s, as well as jobs in the offices of Colorado governors Richard Lamm and Roy Romer, Morland turned his sights to local government.
A popular high school history teacher at The Colorado Springs School, Morland first won a seat on the Manitou Springs City Council in 1997.
Morrison didn’t know Morland when she became mayor but quickly came to like him.
“He was there at council meetings faithfully,” she said. “He was hard-working, and I knew if council members had different points of view and I called on Mark, he would come up with something that we could all agree to.”
Morland also possessed what Morrison called “a wonderful mind.”
But he kept quiet about his physical problems.
While Morland was on the City Council, clues that there might be something wrong began appearing, Morrison said.
Morland sometimes would fall out of his chair, Morrison said, and with his characteristic good sense of humor would joke about being clumsy.
Former Manitou Springs Mayor and current Colorado House Rep. Marc Snyder said Morland was a good mentor. Morland was on the City Council when Snyder was elected in 2003.
“He was one of the most principled, kind and considerate elected officials I’ve worked with,” Snyder said. “He had a genuine, heartfelt compassion for those who were less fortunate and less capable, and he exhibited that in every vote.”
One of the things Morland taught Snyder was that the city budget was more than a bunch of numbers on paper.
“He introduced me to the concept of a budget being a moral document, a reflection of the values, principles and aspirations of the community,” Snyder said.
Former Manitou Springs Mayor Dan Stuart, who preceded Morland on the City Council and then as mayor, knew Morland at the time he ran for state office. The pair served together as members of the Manitou Art Center board.
“He had the heart of a real public servant — he was thoughtful, humble, truthful and smart,” Stuart said. “He knew how to bring people together, which is what you want in a public servant.”
When Morrison, who had served four terms in the Colorado House of Representatives, left as mayor of Manitou Springs in 2007 to become Colorado Insurance commissioner, Morland moved up from mayor pro tem to mayor.
Volunteering as Morland’s campaign manager, Snyder was preparing to mount Morland’s electoral mayoral bid in June 2007 when Morland told him he had Huntington’s disease, a hereditary degenerative nervous system condition.
“He had been very intent on running for mayor, and it was shaping up to being quite the battle,” Snyder said. “It was devastating news to us who worked with him and admired him. He was well-respected.”
When Morland decided he would be unable to be a candidate in the 2007 election, he issued a message to voters of Manitou Springs in which he cited a quote from Yankee baseball player Lou Gehrig in 1939, "Like Lou Gehrig, some citizens may think I've caught a bad break. But I feel like I'm the luckiest man alive. I wouldn't trade a minute of the wonderful life I have with my wife and daughter, and the time I have spent with my fellow citizens on issues that are of great importance to our city."
Snyder also remembers that Morland pioneered an initiative known as “Dark Skies,” when residents of Manitou would be asked to turn off their porch lights and enjoy the night sky.
“That’s a concept that spread and continued to flourish in many communities, and he was the first that I knew of to introduce it,” Snyder said. “It was a good way to rally the community cohesively” — one of Morland’s overall goals.
“He was truly one of those unusual people in public service and a perfect example of the people we need more of in office,” Morrison said.
Morland is survived by his wife of 28 years, Mary Kelley, a former Gazette photographer; their daughter, Madeline; his mother, Doris; and his sister Lisa Kitson and brother-in-law Kevin Kitson.
Editor's Note: This article has been corrected to say that Huntington's disease is not known as Lou Gehrig's disease.