To date, the answer is no. No neighborhood organizer/activist has ever been elected mayor of Colorado Springs.
The mayor typically is a product of the establishment . . . a banker, attorney, businessman, a leader of a non-profit or some other executive.
Even as neighborhoods have grown in sophistication, political savvy and influence at City Hall, they have not produced mayoral timber.
The most successful product of a grassroots neighborhood movement, Sallie Clark, tried twice to win the mayor’s seat and lost.
In 1999, she finished third to incumbent Mary Lou Makepeace and car dealer Will Perkins.
Then in 2003 she again finished a close third behind winner Lionel Rivera and Ted Eastburn.
Another neighborhood leader who joined her on the council was Margaret Radford. They were followed by Tom Gallagher.
In 2004 Clark deepened her political resume when she was elected to the El Paso County Commission.
She’s watching with interest the upcoming race for mayor. That’s because the race includes two men whose roots are in neighborhood organizing like hers: Gallagher and Dave Munger, president of the Council of Neighbors and Organizations, or CONO, the umbrella organization for the city’s neighborhood associations.
Clark is wondering, like I am, if their backgrounds in neighborhood leadership, will translate into votes for mayor.
Radford surprised me with her analysis. Having come from a neighborhood organizer/activist background, I expected her to echo the need for our next mayor to have strong neighborhood sensibilities and perhaps roots similar to hers.
However, Radford said neighborhoods don’t have the corner on leadership training. She urged voters to elect the candidate with the best character, leadlership skills and vision. Interesting.