Earlier this week, Amy Lathen announced her departure as executive director of Colorado Springs Forward, a job she left an elected position as El Paso County commissioner to take.
After a year as executive director, Lathen leaves an organization that has been largely unsuccessful in getting its slate of candidates elected in more than one election cycle. While there have been a few successes, the group also hasn’t been able to change the governance of Colorado Springs Utilities, one of its major goals.
But that doesn’t mean the goals and mission of the organization are wrong — it was created and led by some of the city’s most involved leaders, many of its most generous philanthropists. Its founders are people who genuinely want what’s best for the city: Jim Johnson, Phil Lane, Kathy Loo.
Its mission is worthy of support from the entire community: “Colorado Springs Forward will unite the citizens, communities and organizations of the Pikes Peak region to educate, collaborate and coordinate so that, together, we can effectively address the challenges and opportunities faced by our region. With a sense of urgency, we will lead with words and actions so that together we can reach our full potential and an excellent quality of life.”
But so far, it hasn’t really worked out that way. The group has been tied to negative campaigning during the last city election — occasionally without merit or basis — and many residents question its goals and its tactics. And there’s no sense in ignoring the fact that some people believe that instead of uniting the local community, it’s been divisive.
But the negativity doesn’t have to continue.
As an organization created by local business leaders, Colorado Springs Forward can and should play an important role in the city’s future. It has the resources and support of the city’s lifeblood: its business leaders, the people who are responsible for keeping nonprofit doors open, for supporting arts and culture, for creating jobs and prosperity.
There’s so much potential tied to the organization, and there’s still an opportunity to create a first-class city where we all live, work and play. Perhaps with this change in leadership, there’s a renewed chance to collaborate with other organizations and to work together toward common goals.
Other organizations with similar goals — investing in infrastructure, working hand-in-hand with the military, creating new attractions and economic development through City for Champions — should reach out to CSF now to find still more common ground.
It’s time to set aside the name-calling and the rancor, the accusations and the suspicion. We all have the city’s future success in mind — and we can all reach a consensus about the best ideas.
Lathen led CSF as its first executive director, and now it’s time to build on its solid foundations, work with other organizations of all political stripes and create the best way to move Colorado Springs forward.