COLORADO SPRINGS — With Mayor John Suthers’ term limit approaching, his replacement will step in to what is called a “strong mayor” position for the city, but what does that mean for voters?

According to the National League of Cities, a mayor can either be defined as “weak” or “strong,” but it is not a measure of effectiveness; rather, it is a distinction of political power and administrative authority. Where a “weak” mayor is often appointed by elected city council and shares responsibilities with multiple governing bodies (known as a council-manager form of government), a “strong” mayor is elected directly by voters and typically has more power than a “weak” mayor (mayor-council form of government).

Characteristics of a “strong” mayor:

  • The mayor is the chief executive officer
  • The mayor is in charge of administrative structure, appointing and removing department heads
  • While the council has legislative power, the mayor has veto power
  • The council does not oversee daily operations

Characteristics of a “weak” mayor:

  • The city council has both legislative and executive authority
  • The mayor is not the chief executive, with limited or no veto power
  • The council can prevent the mayor from effectively supervising city administration
  • There may be many administrative boards and commissions that operate independently from city government

Colorado Springs citizens voted to enact a “strong mayor” system in November 2010 under The Charter of the City of Colorado Springs. The first “strong mayor,” Steve Bach, took office under the new form of government in June 2011.

John Suthers took office as the city’s second “strong mayor” in 2015, won re-election in 2019 and served the maximum of two five-year terms.