The news came fewer than six months after his third election to City Council and directly before a brutal city budget season that will decide the fate of everything from old ladies' bus rides to police officers' jobs.
From a city standpoint, this is not an ideal time for Councilor Jerry Heimlicher's resignation.
But then, Heimlicher says his exit, which he announced Tuesday effective at the end of the month, has nothing to do with his elected position. Personal issues — from finances to family — are what motivated him and his wife, Mary Margaret, to move back to their hometown of Memphis, Tenn.
"As you get older, you realize the value of friends and family," he says. "And you realize all that's important in life is being with people who love you and you love them."
Heimlicher, 68, had another, perhaps less sentimental, realization in May as General Motors slid into bankruptcy: Maybe his retirement with Ford Motor Co. isn't as secure as he thought. Moving to Memphis, a city with a low cost of living and lots of family ties, seemed like the right choice, he says.
But after six-plus years representing District 3 (west, southwest and downtown), it was hard to leave. Especially since the city is facing overwhelming budget problems, as well as a ballot question authored by anti-tax man Douglas Bruce that could lead to even more monumental shortfalls.
Heimlicher worries that continued voter opposition to taxes could send the city into a death spiral.
"I think there's still people who for whatever reason think we're creating all this stuff," he says. "[But] what's in it for us to use scare tactics?"
Heimlicher, who won't actually leave the Springs until November, hopes the timing might prove beneficial for Council, because a replacement could take over in time to sit through budget hearings and public meetings — before voting on the final budget. Heimlicher also says he'd be willing to mentor his replacement in October regarding important issues and contacts.
Anti-growth activist Dave Gardner was Heimlicher's only opponent in the April election, though other political players like former Councilor Richard Skorman live in the district. Gardner says he has not yet decided whether he'll vie for the seat.
"This is sad news," Vice Mayor Larry Small said to Council after Heimlicher's announcement. "You've been a tremendous asset to this city. I hope we can get somebody in place in time to deal with the other issues we're faced with."
In addition to dealing with the budget, Heimlicher hopes his replacement will adopt some of his pet issues. He has worked for years with a merchants group on South Nevada Avenue on plans to clean up the area. Huge swaths of the depressed section — mostly between the Interstate 25 bridge and Cheyenne Road — appeared destined for redevelopment, but the recession has put those plans on hold.
Heimlicher's other big project appears to be in good hands. The councilor had worked with Homeward Pikes Peak to launch a parking meters program to benefit the homeless. The program installs old meters in businesses as a means to collect spare change for programs helping the needy. Homeward Pikes Peak and volunteers are now expanding the program.
Council will appoint a replacement from Heimlicher's district after the public is given a chance to apply. The new Councilor's term will expire in April 2011.