CityHall_2406

Three of four incumbents seeking second terms on the Colorado Springs City Council prevailed in the April 6 city election.

That means the newcomers will form a small minority on the nine-member board when they're sworn in April 20.

Those newcomers are retired Army officer Dave Donelson in northwest District 1, retired Air Force officer Randy Helms in northern District 2, who defeated incumbent Dave Gieslinger, and leadership consultant Nancy Henjum in central District 5.

While seven of the 21 candidates were younger than 40, none captured a seat. Rather, voters preferred the older candidates. At 57, Donelson will be the youngest member of City Council. (At-large member Wayne Williams is 58.)

Incumbents who won second terms: Richard Skorman in southwest District 3; Yolanda Avila in southeast District 4 and Mike O'Malley in eastern District 6. O'Malley was appointed in January to fulfill the unexpired term of Andy Pico, who was elected to a state House seat last November.

Voters elected candidates to the six district races this election, while the three at-large Council seats will be up for election in 2023. Only one of the three, Williams, is eligible to seek re-election, however; the others, Bill Murray and Tom Strand, will be term limited.

Henjum outpolled four other contenders in a district with the most competition. But she carried 37.1 percent, the lowest percentage win among all the district contests.

The next closest competitor was photography business owner Mary Elizabeth Fabian with 25.4 percent.

Skorman, who's served as council president the last four years, beat back challenges from three candidates and cruised to victory with nearly 59.5 percent of the vote.

Avila won 61.5 percent in her two-person race, and O'Malley gathered 61.6 in his two-candidate field.

Donelson mustered 48 percent, while Helms polled at 37.5 percent.

The election expanded the presence of ex-military on council. panel. Now, four of five council members have served in the armed forces, but the election increased that to five of nine.

The lone ballot measure, the city's request to lift the 30-word limit for ballot measure language, was polling at 65.9 percent.

Two of the winners vowed to make affordable housing one of their top issues.

"We have to start thinking about the next 150 years," Henjum said, noting this year is the city's 150th anniversary. "The city is facing challenges around housing, which is hard to obtain by frontline workers."

Skorman named affordable housing as his top issue for his second term.

He said he wants "to try tackle affordable housing in a way that makes a difference, really significantly increase the inventory of housing that people can afford."

He acknowledged that the city's tight housing market, skyrocketing housing costs and lack of affordable housing could have played a role in the city losing out on Space Command. Rather, the Pentagon chose Huntsville, Alabama, which has a median home price that's roughly $100,000 lower than Colorado Springs'.

"You can hear from the economic development people we lose other businesses that want to locate here [because of a lack of affordable housing]," he said.

"And," he added, "we don't have the wages that pay enough to live with what's available. It's not a good combination and we can be a lot more aggressive."

Skorman also expressed disappointment that all the younger candidates lost, which bolsters his goal of placing a measure before voters that would raise council pay from $6,250 a year to a living wage that would enable young people to dedicate time to the job. Most of the current councilors are either retired or have reached retirement age.

"I hope that the council members, even though they're older at this point, they really understand how our community is growing younger, much younger," he said. "We have to be a council for them, not just what existed under the old guard."

Voter turnout was the lowest in a decade, with only 26.7 percent (83,034) of the 310,942 eligible voters casting ballots.

In past April city elections, turnout was 59.8 percent in 2011; 39.5 percent in 2013; 39 percent in 2015; 31.7 percent in 2017, and 37.1 percent in 2019.

The election was conducted entirely by mail.