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Both mayoral candidates, Graham and Gradisar share their plans for Pueblo, if elected

Posted at 9:01 PM, Jan 02, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-02 23:01:36-05

PUEBLO — Ballots for the Pueblo's mayoral run-off election are now being mailed to voters. Current Pueblo City Council President Heather Graham is challenging incumbent Mayor Nick Gradisar, to be the next mayor of Pueblo.

The two defeated seven other candidates in November. Nine people officially ran for mayor in the first election, but because one candidate did not receive more than 51% of the votes, the top two candidates, Gradisar and Graham, are competing in a run-off election.

With ballots being sent out in the beginning of January, people have until January 23 to either mail them in or drop them off at one of four drop off ballot locations.

This is a mail in election only, meaning that people will not be able to vote in person on election day.

I spoke with Gradisar and Graham on Tuesday about their plans for Pueblo.

Gradisar has been the Mayor of Pueblo for the past five years.

"I love serving the people of Pueblo, I love this community, I love being mayor,” Gradisar said.

Heather Graham owns three businesses in Pueblo, and has also been serving as the president of the city council.

"I have learned a tremendous amount and I see that Pueblo can be headed in a different direction if you had different leadership," Graham said.

She said that two of her main priorities are advancing economic development, and addressing homelessness.

"Restoring the foundation in Pueblo to make it more attractive so people want to move here and stay here so they are not spending their money in other communities," Graham said.

She said one aspect of fixing homelessness is affordable housing.

“I think that the city can take steps to incentivize developers with property tax initiatives, like if you own a multifamily apartment complex and you dedicate 20% to a rent controlled area that you know the city could incentivize you back with the property tax rebate to allowed to be more affordable for new people moving to Pueblo or people that just can't quite get into a house,” Graham said.

She said she is proud of the work she has done as City Council President, but she is looking forward to working with more people if she is elected.

“I'm super proud that I was just an average citizen who was dissatisfied with local government and decided to get involved in doing so. I beat 2 incumbents that had been in the city already before and then after that I was elected President two years in a row by my peers. So I think that that shows that I work well with people regardless of what side of the aisle you sit on,” Graham said.

Meanwhile, Gradisar said he wants to focus on bettering Pueblo's infrastructure.

"We have a program in place to fix and repair our street which has been the number one concern over the last three years. It'll be $30 million and we've invested in repairing and rebuilding our streets. I want to continue to do that so that we can stay on top of the street maintenance issues,” Gradisar said.

He said they are also working to improve the sanitary sewer infrastructure in the City of Pueblo.

A lot of it's old, a lot of it is not big enough to accommodate the growth that we're going to see come to the City of Pueblo. So instead of having developers pay for that infrastructure, the City of Pueblo is using some of our one time federal money to pay for that infrastructure. So it's more economical for the developers to pull the trigger on projects that they're exploring here,” Gradisar said.

Gradisar would also like to see through the three new fire stations.

“Just last month we closed on the financing of those fire stations. So this year you'll see construction begin there. One to serve an area on the west side of Pueblo that's been under served that we think is going to be the focal center of growth in the City of Pueblo and the foreseeable future,” Gradisar said. “It will also accommodate the fact that we have female firefighters in this city now and these older stations that are being replaced do not accommodate female firefighters very well, so the new ones now will,” Gradisar said.

Both of the mayoral candidates have the same top priority.

"Number one on everyone's mind is public safety," Graham said.

"Obviously public safety is number one,” Gradisar said.

But each candidate has a different way to tackle crime.

"So this Real Time Crime Center I think will allow us to utilize civilians rather than post certified police officers to do a lot of the investigation of some crimes even before the police officers arrive at the scene," Gradisar said.

"Number one would be creating ways to hire an expedited process for the police department because that's a lot of our trouble right now. It takes a long time to be a police officer and actually get him up on the streets,” Graham said.

Mayor Gradisar believes his five years as the city's mayor makes him more qualified than his opponent.

"I've been a leader in this community. I have led the board waterworks, Chamber of Commerce, Action 22. My opponent really has the only thing she's late for is the protest against the COVID-19 restrictions so that she could operate her bars and she's let the city council for the last two years that's pretty much it,” Gradisar said.

Graham argues her opponent has not been good for the city's public safety.

"I think they should vote for me because my foresight for the city is much more than his. I mean he's already been the mayor for five years and we've seen a decrease in public safety. The decrease in development was going to start seeing a decrease in sales tax revenue,” Graham said.

I asked both candidates what they think people want out of the next Mayor of Pueblo.

"I think that they want a mayor that controls the narrative. I think they want a mayor that goes to legislators and says you know your rules are impacting my community and we need to change them," Graham said.

"I think they want somebody to be transparent, honest, they want somebody to be a leader, who does not always agree with them, but they do what they think is right,” Gradisar said.

If reelected, there are multiple projects Gradisar would like to complete. He said he would also like to improve the relationships and professionalism of the city council.

“Well, obviously the relationship with the city council in the last 12 months has not been good. I've attributed that mostly to the factor four of them were running for mayor against me. I'm hoping that once we get through the runoff election, we will go back to a more normal relationship and will have conversations about how we can move forward rather than try to politicize everything,” Graham said.

Graham said she is a stronger problem solver than her competitor.

"I think I can improve it all. I think I can improve the city because I'm a listener, I know how to take direction and I know how to come up with solutions that make sense to everybody and I think that that's something that, you know, the incumbent doesn't always do," Graham said.

Voters must mail in or drop their ballots to one of the four ballot box locations by election day. According to the Pueblo City Clerk, these are the ballot drop off locations:

Pueblo County is allowing use of four 24-hour ballot drop-off locations including the following:

  • Colorado State Fairgrounds (outside gate on Prairie Avenue)
950 S Prairie Ave., Pueblo, CO 81004
  • Colorado State University Pueblo (access from Gonzales Dr.)
2200 Bonforte Blvd., Pueblo, CO 81003
  • Lamb Branch Library (located behind the building)
2525 S. Pueblo Blvd., Pueblo, CO 81005
  • Pueblo County Courthouse (Westside Court St.)
215 W 10th St., Pueblo, CO 81003

The election is on January 23rd.___

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