SOUTHERN COLORADO — The Colorado Springs Council of Neighborhoods and Organizations (CONO) recently announced they selected a new executive director of the non-profit organization.
Sara Vaas worked at CONO from 2015-2019, and said she wants to empower and educate citizens as the new executive director. "It's my job to listen, to be patient, and to be able to plug them into the resources," said Vaas.
Vaas described CONO as a connection between citizens and local government. She said the goal is to give neighborhoods a seat at the decision-making table. She stressed being inclusive, and ensuring there is no part of the city that receives disproportionate attention. "We focus really on educating and equipping people with the resources, and connecting them. So, really our focus is to build up neighbors in our their communities, so that they can speak on their own behalf, and they can advocate for themselves and their neighbors. But we want to provide the facts, the information, and the access to the decision-makers," said Vaas.
Vaas wants to align CONO with Colorado Springs and El Paso County's master plans. The Chairman of the Board for CONO, Rick Hoover, explained how that would look in the future. "Instead of having one CONO, there would be 12 small CONOs, each district being represented by us... If it was going to work, she [Vaas] was going to be the one to get it done," said Hoover.
Since the pandemic, Vaas said people appear to be more involved in their communities. "People want information. They want to know what's going on in their neighborhood. They want their voices to be heard, but they want to be able to make an influence and make a stamp on what's happening in their community," said Vaas.
Hoover said CONO previously advocated directly to local leaders on behalf of neighborhoods, but they moved away from that model when CONO became a non-profit organization in 2015. "What we're trying to do is make sure the residents know what's going on, and they can be the voice at the table to make their own decisions," said Vaas.
CONO serves both El Paso and Teller Counties.