COLORADO SPRINGS — Colorado Springs newest city councilor Stephannie Fortune was sworn in Monday, replacing four-term city councilman Richard Skorman in District 3.

Fortune has a lengthy political and business background, first moving to Colorado Springs 16 years ago to take over government affairs and regional advancement for the then-Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce.

Fortune’s political career began at “a very young age” and one of her first jobs, as part of her family’s business, was distributing meals to military families.

Before her arrival in Colorado Springs, Fortune served as Chief of Staff to then-congressman Scott McGinnis, a Republican who represented the Western Slope in Washington, D.C. She also worked in Republican Governor Bill Owens’s office before coming down to the Olympic City.

“I have a passion for small business and I have a passion for people to have access to buying local. Downtown is a great passion of mine and I want to be a voice for Downtown,” Fortune said.

Shortly after her arrival in Colorado Springs, the Great Recession swept the city into economic times that saw its youngest residents move to other regions.

“People were wringing their hands in this community. They were scared and they were saying how do we keep our young people here? How do we generate business that then generates jobs that then pays people?” Fortune said. “We’re in the tank, what do we do?”

Fortune helped on several initiatives to spur activity and vibrancy in the city again. She was one of the early organizers on the City for Champions project that has spurred the sports-related economy with a downtown stadium and U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Museum.

The initiative has been credited with sparking the development of hotels and other businesses in the downtown area.

“It meant there was opportunity and opportunity meant there were jobs and jobs meant people can have the quality of life and be in Colorado Springs,” she said.

Fortune currently is a small business owner, doing what she calls “community development and life design,” helping coach people on their career and life paths.

During her nomination process, her presence on the City for Champions and business background drew criticism for potentially being too close to Mayor John Suthers and his agenda.

“To me, there is nothing horrible about continuing success. It is amazing what the council and the Mayor have done together in the past several years. We are rated the top city in surveys and publications, we are a successful city,” Fortune said in an interview with FOX21 News.

Fortune also drew criticism for having a contradicting background to predecessor Richard Skorman. Skorman was often seen as one of the few progressive voices on a council in a conservative city. That background won him four straight elections to District 3. Skorman was elected to his fourth term in April 2021 and announced his retirement in November of that year.

Several constituents have emailed FOX21 News, saying that they were worried that, without Skorman, the council would lose its most skeptical voice on new developments.

Fortune says, despite her background working with conservative leaders, she has a reputation of working across the aisle.

“I’m an independent person and I think in ways that will probably surprise people. So, I say, let’s just see how it all goes. I am for opportunity, I am for advancement, but I am also wise enough to question,” Fortune said.

Because she was appointed to the seat, Fortune will be on the ballot for election next spring. As she looks ahead towards her next year on council, she says that public safety, fire mitigation, and ensuring the city has appropriate infrastructure in place for its growth are her top priorities.

“[I’m] Dealing with very specific things about roads, bridges, and broadband, and different infrastructure that needs to be in place to support people staying here and people coming here,” Fortune said.

She said that she has been called a liberal and conservative and she hopes she can soothe a fraught political culture by offering an open-door policy to constituents.

“I’ve been labeled everything by different sides. I’m going to make people unhappy and I’m going to make people proud,” she said.