(PUEBLO, Colo.) — The steel city is flooded with campaign signs as the Nov. 7 election quickly approaches. FOX21 is your local election headquarters and nine candidates have set their sights on becoming Pueblo’s next mayor.

Chris Nicoll is a familiar face in Pueblo as he ran in 2018. Nicoll has an ambitious plan to transform Pueblo from a manufacturing hub into a technology-driven city. It’s a similar platform to the one he used in 2018, but this time he’s focusing on tackling the pressing issues impacting the city. Crime is his top priority.

Nicoll served two terms as Pueblo City Council President and says he is ready to step into the Mayor’s office.

“This election is critical to Pueblo’s future and selecting the right mayor with the right vision will make the difference,” said Nicoll.

Nicoll has 25 years of experience in defense aerospace and telecommunications. He wants to take Pueblo from a manufacturing economy to more of a high-tech industry.

“I ran in 2018 against Mayor Gradisar, this is my second time running against him and I believe that one of the big issues then was economic development and carrying Pueblo forward on a new vision,” Nicoll explained. “I presented a vision about technology and bringing our economy, moving it forward from a manufacturing economy to more of a high-tech industry and building a center of excellence around technology. I think that’s absolutely possible. Having the Colorado State University Pueblo and the community college at our disposal we absolutely could rebuild our economy and rebrand Pueblo in that direction, but I think we have to address these core issues like public safety and homelessness to be able to get to that point.”

Nicoll believes Pueblo faces big city problems and without a concrete strategy to face them, he fears prospects for the city’s future economic development will hang in the balance. His campaign is built upon a bold plan to make Pueblo a safer city. Nicoll plans to start with recruiting and retaining quality officers.

“Currently Mayor Gradisar is trying to hire people by throwing bonuses out there,” Nicoll said. “I think we need to go further and beyond that. Some of those things might be flexible time, they might be educational benefits, there’s a lot of different things we can add to a package to make it attractive.”

With respect to homelessness, Nicoll believes he has a plan that addresses housing as a priority.

“Affordable housing is a problem in Pueblo, and there’s a shortage right now,” Nicoll explained. “As a community, we have to have more projects to create more affordable housing in our city. That said, I don’t believe that the homeless people who are residing in Pueblo are actually from Pueblo, I think there are a lot of them. They’re coming in from other places and in some cases are even being brought in and we’ve had reports of that as well as other cities bringing homeless people to Pueblo.”

The past five annual budgets have been some of the largest to come to Pueblo. Nicoll said under Mayor Nick Gradisar’s leadership, city streets have paid the price.

“In five years he hasn’t done enough to address the streets issue so that would be my primary budget objective, in addition to public safety,” Nicoll said.

Nicoll is questioning his fellow candidates, Mayor Nick Gradisar and Pueblo City Council President Heather Graham for accepting endorsements from city labor unions. Nicoll is encouraging his fellow candidates to recuse themselves and return any money they may have received from city unions since he says the office of the mayor is responsible for directly handling city union contract negotiations.

“I believe that the office of mayor should be a neutral party when they enter negotiations with city unions. Even the appearance of a conflict of interest should be avoided by the mayor’s office,” Nicoll said. “Unfortunately, these endorsements put Gradisar and Graham in a weak bargaining position on behalf of the taxpayer. The answer is a simple one. Just give it back and let’s move on.”

Nicoll stated that as a past city council member, he himself sought the endorsement of city unions because the city manager always performed the direct negotiations. Nicoll tells FOX21 City Council was always removed from these direct interactions.

“Under the mayor form of government, this buffer does not exist, and that creates a
problem,” Nicoll said.

With the city at a crossroads, people in Pueblo will cast their vote for mayor on Nov. 17. Pueblo County election offices will begin mailing ballots to registered voters on Oct. 16.