Even the weather cooperated for Steve Bach’s swearing-in as the first “strong mayor” of Colorado Springs this morning at the Pioneers Museum.
The smoky haze from distant forest fires that had enveloped the city for several days cleared overnight, allowing Bach to take office on a typically luminous Colorado morning.
After the usual ceremonies (presentation of colors, national anthem, pledge of allegiance, and Invocation), Mayor Bach took the oath of office at 10:17 a.m. and gave his first official address. Donning a pair of reading glasses (which, some noted, he had never done on the campaign trail), the city’s new CEO gave the kind of optimistic speech that you’d expect at a small-town Fourth of July celebration.
“Our best days are ahead of us,” Bach declaimed. “Our goal is to make our city government a national model. We will have a vibrant, diversified economy. We will become the best place in the country to do business.”
He also made it clear that he wouldn't waste his time making things happen, describing how he and interim City Manager Steve Cox already had agreed to spend available money for emergency work on city parks. Later, Cox said that Bach had approved using $700,000 in funds to tackle parks with the biggest needs in grass and maintenance.
The speech was well-received by an overflow crowd on the south side of the museum. Those who could do so found shady spots to enjoy the event, while the numerous dignitaries in attendance took their assigned seats in the sweltering sun.
Most unfortunate dignitaries: the Municipal Court judges, who sat together in their black robes.
Bach’s speech was mercifully short at nine minutes — in fact, it may have been shorter than Woodmen Valley Chapel pastor Matt Heard’s benediction. Like Bishop Michael Sheridan, who gave the invocation, Heard managed to be appropriately non-denominational, never referring to Jesus.
For ministers who have spent their entire adult lives in belief, that’s not easy. It was a gracious and inclusive note.
After the ceremony, the crowd adjourned to the air-conditioned interior of the museum, where the new mayor greeted hundreds of well-wishers.
Who was there? Virtually every member of the Colorado Springs political/business/government pantheon. Who wasn’t there? Gov. Hickenlooper, who, accoding to Bach, had other commitments.
It was a cheerful, auspicious start to Bach’s term. And on such a day, mingling with hundreds of happy folks, it was difficult not to share their optimism.
Maybe, as Mayor Steve says, this is the best city in the world after all.
Before Bach was sworn in, the crowd heard a short farewell address by the outgoing two-term mayor, Lionel Rivera.
Rivera thanked the employees of the city government and its biggest enterprises, Colorado Springs Utilities and Memorial Health System, calling them "a beacon of hope for how to run a city." He also praised the recent City Councils for doing "many great things, and leaving the city in great shape."
Then the 68-year-old Bach took the oath of office, stepped to the microphone and talked optimistically about the next four years as filled with "opportunities and challenges."
"Today marks a new beginning, a fresh start," Bach said. "We know how great the city can be. ... There have been days when people have thought that the sun has set on our city. In fact, the sun is rising — just over the hill."
Bach, in a calmer, assured and more low-key voice than during most of the campaign, emphasized that he would try immediately to add more young adults, women and people of color into the city administration. "I'm already working on that," he said.
He spoke of focusing on downtown, "making it the heart of the community again, as it should be. As for improving the parks, Bach said firmly, "We're gonna get it done."
The new mayor said he would be meeting next week with Gov. John Hickenlooper, with two main items on the agenda: "What can we do to help the state, and what can they do to help us?"
Bach called it a "landmark day" and said the new form of government has a "chance to change the city for the better for the next few generations, for the next 50 to 100 years on out. ... I'll work hard every day to be the best mayor this city has ever had."
Even some of his election opponents were upbeat.
"He's moving forward," said mayoral candidate and former City Councilor Tom Gallagher. "That's a lot better than backward."
Bach later said he still hasn't decided on a chief of staff but promised to announce his choice "within a week."