While he never thought he’d pursue a life in public service, Monument Mayor Jeff Kaiser will be stepping away from his mayoral position (and nearly two terms as a town trustee) in April. The California native has lived all over the world, including New Zealand, Israel and Canada, but set roots in the Tri-Lakes region in 2004. When not fulfilling his duties as mayor, Kaiser is an electrical engineer with Maxim Integrated in Colorado Springs, where he manages four different engineering groups based in Colorado and the Philippines.
Kaiser spoke with the Business Journal this week about his priorities as mayor, his growing corner of El Paso County and advice for those pursuing public office.
How did you end up in Colorado?
I was working in Markham, Canada, outside of Toronto, and had some recruiters contact me. … [Colorado Springs] is an area I love. I’d been here before and had family here, and they said it was the best place they ever lived, so it was a no-brainer to come to Colorado.
And how did you become mayor of Monument?
Shortly after the last mayoral election [former Monument Mayor] Rafael Dominguez moved just outside the town boundaries and had to resign. I was elected mayor by the board of trustees to fill that position. I had been a board member for about eight years and I served as the mayor pro tem for much of that time and had filled in for the mayor on several occasions. The board felt I was the right choice to lead the town for the remainder of the term.
What have your priorities been as mayor?
No. 1 is water. We want to make sure we do water correctly, that we plan for the future, that our residents have a healthy water resource into the foreseeable future.
No. 2, it’s important that we are fiscally responsible. It’s something we have been and continue to be ever since I’ve been on the board.
Three, I think it’s very important for the town to have good leadership in our town staff — our town manager, our town directors and all our town employees.
When it comes to water, [trustees and town staff] have had the same understanding of the needs for the town. What has changed since the last election is how best to go about that. We’d been on the same page as to how to tackle water issues regarding new water versus reusable water and water conservation. I think, since the election, there have been various directional changes that we need to work through.
For forever, the town, the staff and the board felt water reuse was a very important thing to tackle. It’s something we have the finances to do. It’s something we have the means and expertise to do. We anticipated about a 50 percent cut in our water usage, which is huge. But some of the newer board members from the last election don’t feel water reuse is where the town’s money should be spent.
What’s your assessment of the leadership among town staff?
We’ve recruited an outstanding town manager in Chris Lowe. He comes with a very professional background and understanding of government service.
Even before that we had an outstanding town staff. We were keen on retaining the top-notch town staff that we had and adding a top-notch town manager.
As mayor, did you face any blowback from the proposed methadone clinic and the lawsuit filed against the town?
We were wrapping that up when I took over as mayor. It was clearly in the news and on the public’s mind, but we were in the process of finalizing the agreement when I took over. Not everybody was aware, but when you’re negotiating with lawyers, you don’t show your hand, so to speak.It was a hit to our budget, and there are financial ramifications we now have to understand.
How do you balance the needs of businesses in historic downtown with new business development on the south end of town?
Clearly we have two different business needs: We have a small, hometown feel in our downtown Monument area. We fully support those businesses and want them to be a huge success. On the other side of town we have newer development in terms of homes and businesses. We have the big-box stores — Walmart, Home Depot, Kohl’s. We’re able to keep somewhat separate the small-town feel of downtown and not too far away have the bigger stores people want as well. We have the best of both worlds.
How much room is left for commercial growth in Monument?
There’s still some room. On the east side of [Interstate 25] there are still some tracts. … There’s an area we just did an evaluation on a little over a year ago that’s just north of the [Tri-Lakes] YMCA. We still have tracts north of the Monument Marketplace and south, down to Baptist Road. You’re seeing some of the area south of Baptist Road fill in, too.
What sorts of industries are interested?
Certainly food industries — grocery stores. I believe a [KFC restaurant] is planning on going in over there. We’ve had some inquiries from Target and other stores that have at least asked about those properties.
What about residential growth?
We have it, but there’s still some room to grow. The subdivision Promontory Pointe is within the town boundaries, and they’ve completed the first few of five phases. We’re working with the developer of the Willow Springs area on the west side of the interstate, and they would like to annex into the town. We’re also hearing inquiries about developing land on the west side of I-25 and east of the Old Denver Highway. We have a lot of space we can develop.
Was public service something you were always interested in?
No, it never was. But it has been an eye-opener. I think I’ve accomplished the things I wanted to when I came in.
What would you tell others who want to pursue public office?
Do it for the right reasons. Do it based upon factual evidence and not hearsay, innuendos and conjecture.