Mark Morland already has been the interim mayor of Manitou Springs, so many assumed he'd try to make the position permanent in November's election.
But Morland recently announced he wouldn't run. According to City Councilor Donna Ford, Morland is suffering from the effects of Huntington's disease, which causes degeneration of the brain cells. As Huntington's progresses, sufferers usually experience difficulty concentrating on intellectual tasks, loss of motor skills and emotional instability. Full nursing care is needed in advanced stages.
Ford had expected to run against Morland for mayor.
"I truly admire him," she says. "He is just genuinely a good man."
Morland could not be reached for comment this week.
Now, Ford and fellow councilors Eric Drummond and Nancy Barnes vie for the seat vacated in January by Marcy Morrison, who became state insurance commissioner.
With no incumbent, each candidate will try to sell voters on his or her plan for Manitou, a town that runs largely on disposable income. Tourists come in the summer and funnel sales-tax money into the city budget. Manitou then has some money to, say, spruce up the city in preparation for the next wave of tourists.
If the new mayor can create a bigger budget, it will pay for more than the already-in-progress urban renewal projects. More money could mean replacing the city's decrepit water and sewer system. Or pumping money into schools, police and fire services. But the new mayor will have to get the money first.
Here's how each plans to do it:
Donna Ford: Advertise
Not that long ago, Ford remembers, Manitou had $25,000 to spend on advertising. Now, she says, it has more than five times that amount. But it's still not a lot.
Ford, a Manitou business owner and longtime resident, says the trick is to use the budget you have well, and look to increase it. Once you tell people about Manitou, she says, the crowds will follow.
"Even when the economy stays down, people still feel like they need to take a vacation," she says.
More tourists mean a bigger budget for the city. Ford is all for using some of that money for urban renewal, but she thinks the city needs a knowledgeable person like her in charge of that process to ensure Manitou's historic character remains intact.
Eric Drummond: Diversify
Four years ago, Drummond moved his family to Manitou Springs. And he came with ideas.
"Let's be a lot more creative and a lot more energetic," he says.
The attorney says he thinks Manitou concentrates too much on summer tourism. If the city started networking with business, he says, it could attract conferences in traditionally slow seasons like spring and fall. That would spread out the tourism rush and boost the economy.
Drummond also thinks the city needs a professional to aggressively seek grants. Those grants could continue to fund the city's urban-renewal projects, perhaps freeing some budget to deal with other pressing issues.
Nancy Barnes: Stay on track
Don't call them tourists, Barnes says. Call them "guests."
Barnes thinks Manitou is on the right track to lure more guests, and thereby boost its budget. The downtown urban renewal is cleaning up streets and sidewalks. Business owners have reacted by fixing up storefronts.
Barnes says that's part of the makeover. The other part is treating your "guests" well.
"If you make a welcoming community for people to visit... they're going to be comfortable here," she says. "And when you're comfortable, you're going to spend more money."