Manitou mayor tackles Incline, homeless camps

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Colorado Springs native Nicole Nicoletta describes herself as a college professor, mental and behavioral health provider, community activist and independent scholar.

Now she can add another title: Mayor of Manitou Springs.

Elected to the Manitou Springs City Council in 2014, Nicoletta won a remarkably close mayoral election Nov. 3. Only 10 votes separated her from Council veteran Coreen Toll. Nicoletta has a master’s degree in sociology from UCCS and has taught at Colorado College, UCCS and Pikes Peak Community College. The newly elected Mayor spoke to the Business Journal earlier this week, a day after her narrow victory was made official.

Are you relieved that it’s all over?

It’s an honor — I’m so grateful. On election night I looked at the returns at 10:30 [p.m.] and Coreen was ahead, so I sort of accepted that I had lost. The next morning I was ahead by 10 votes, so then we had to wait [for the final tally]. It has been an incredible lesson in patience and humility, and I’m so excited to get to work.

How did you come to be in Manitou Springs?

I was born and raised in Colorado Springs. My family visited Manitou on a regular basis and when the time came to choose a place to raise my daughter, I picked Manitou.

Tell us about your new job’s biggest challenges and most pressing issues.

Incline management, reduction in parking congestion, recapturing quality of life for residents, flood mitigation funding and innovative design, fire mitigation, sustainable economic development are all pressing issues and offer their own challenges. These challenges are opportunities for the Manitou community to come together and show the world how resilient and innovative we are.

Many observers have attributed your victory to your position on the Incline. Can you tell us about that issue?

I believe that it’s absolutely possible to create a balance between Incline users and Manitou residents/businesses. At the end of last summer, Manitou residents were on their last little bit of tolerance for the Incline. I proposed the $5 parking fee for Ruxton Avenue parking, and I got many, many emails from Incline users in Colorado Springs — but no complaints from Manitou. Most businesses in Manitou don’t benefit from Incline users, and residents along Ruxton see only detriments. That’s why we need to get to work right away to solve the problems. We don’t want to wait until next summer and then have to shut it down (to implement a fix).

How did you become interested in elected office?

I spent two years as the administrative intern for the Manitou Springs Forward citizen-led initiative, which was an effort to update the Rainbow Vision Plan, another Manitou Springs initiative drafted in 1992. The process of gathering community input and creating relationships with residents and elected officials sparked my interest in local government. Shortly after that I ran for City Council as a Ward 3 representative, took office and realized that I have a passion for politics.

How do you see your role in the community?

To be available to receive feedback and ideas from residents and visitors, to stay on top of local, regional, state and international issues and be able to take a broad view of the entire community in order to make decisions that represent the greatest number of people possible. My role is to be a boots-on-the-ground kind of Mayor, including — but not limited to — cleaning up homeless camps, visiting with seniors at our Golden Circle Nutrition Program, building trails, continuing to work at the community pantry and staying involved with the vibe on the street. In other words, I want to maintain the level of understanding I have of folks from all districts in Manitou, and represent them throughout the region.

What’s to like about the Pikes Peak Region?

There isn’t enough room for me to list all the fabulous things to like about our town and the region, but to name a few… The outdoors, a place to find serenity, get a great workout, or gather with friends and family. The locals in Manitou are on the top of the list of what to like… they are welcoming, smart, fun and caring. I like the innovative business ideas and incubators in Manitou and the region, as well as the focus on sustainability, care for the earth and for future generations. The never-ending opportunity to get involved in community projects and workshops is great.

Any advice for folks who might be thinking about running for elected office?

If someone has an impulse to get involved in elected office, I say go for it. Participating in a local/community project that interfaces with local government is a great way to get your feet wet and gain some insight into the world of elected office; you will soon know if the elected office path is right for you.

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