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ELECTION DAY VISIT FROM THE MAYOR
Fountain International Magnet School third graders studying local government learned a lot about the subject straight from the source, as Mayor Nick Gradisar spent part of his Election Day morning fielding questions from the inquisitive Lions.
The Mayor began his presentation by stressing the vital role voting plays in a democracy.
“It’s a very important day,” said Mayor Gradisar. “In Colorado, we have a great system: you get your ballot in the mail. Maybe some of your parents have their ballots laying around at home. So when you get home this afternoon, encourage them to get it turned in at the election center.
“It’s important that everybody votes. This is our chance to make a difference by weighing in on who we want to lead us, because these are the people who will make the decisions that affect our lives. As citizens, it’s important that we study, listen and then vote. Because not every country gets to pick their leaders.”
The Mayor then offered insight into the strong mayoral form of city government.
“I’m the first Mayor in the city in 80 years,” the third graders were told. “Before we had a Mayor, we had a city manager-city council form of government. If you wanted to run for mayor, you had to get friends and people you know to sign a petition, and if you got 100 signatures, you got on the ballot.
“When I ran, there were 16 names on the ballot. So we had a run-off election and I was successful in that election. So next year, I will have been Mayor for 5 years and I can run for one more term of 4 years.”
In the life of a mayor, a “typical” day varies depending on the agenda.
“Usually, there are lots of meetings,” Mayor Gradisar began. “A lot of the meetings now are on Zoom, which you probably used to go to school on a couple of years ago: not a lot of fun, but it’s a good way to get in a lot of meetings, with a lot of people in a lot of places.
“And I spend a lot of time on the phone, talking to people about what they’d like to see the City do or listening to those who make complaints about what’s going on the city.”
For Mayor Gradisar, the day usually begins early, starting with the reading of e-mails.
“There’s a lot of electronic communications and calls that people expect replies to,” the Lions learned. “And I spent a lot of time doing that. And at other times, I spend a lot of time studying what’s going on in other communities, and participate in meetings with mayors from around the country.”
The Mayor also provided details of his recent trip to South Korea, where he met with executives from CS Wind, which owns the wind tower manufacturing plant in Pueblo.
“We had a chance to see their home office and experience Korean culture,” Mayor Gradisar explained, adding that the company plans to expand its manufacturing capacity in the coming years.
The forum afforded Lions the opportunity to ask their own questions of the Mayor, and there were plenty of queries.
HAVE YOU EVER SPOKE AT A SCHOOL BEFORE?
“Yes, and I’ve been to this school before. This is one of my favorite parts of the job: talking to kids.”
HOW MANY DAYS DO YOU GET OFF?
“It sort of depends. I schedule vacations and I schedule trips out of town. But there’s so much work to be done, even when you’re on your days off, you’re thinking about the work or talking on the phone about what’s going on. So I don’t get many days off.”
WHAT DO YOU DO IN YOUR FREE TIME?
“I like to play golf. I like to ride my bicycle, because we have some great bicycle trails in Pueblo. I like to spend time with my dog. And watch movies sometime.”
DO YOU VOTE?
“Yes, I do. I vote every election, and I love the system we have. When I started, you had to go to a voting center and stand in line to get in the booth.”
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST TO VOTE?
“It costs nothing: it’s free.”
CAN YOU VOTE FOR YOURSELF?
“Yes, and you should. If you don’t have confidence in yourself to lead, you probably shouldn’t be on the ballot.”
WHAT SCHOOLS DID YOU GO TO?
“I went to Beulah Heights Elementary, Corwin Middle School and South High School, Yay, South! I also sent to CSU Pueblo and then to law school at Drake University.”
WHAT JOB DID YOU HAVE BEFORE YOU WERE MAYOR?
“I was a lawyer who practiced law for 40 years. It was a great job and I loved it.”
HOW MUCH DO YOU MAKE A WEEK?
“Well, I don’t know that, but I make $150,000 a year. That’s pretty good, huh?”
HOW DO YOU MAKE LAWS?
“In the city, we make laws by passing ordinances. So if we have an idea for an ordinance, we will write it up and present to city council. And if four members agree with it, they pass it and it becomes one of the rules everybody in the city has to live by.”
DO YOU OWN ANY TYPE OF BUILDINGS?
“I have some rental properties that I started acquiring in the 1980s. And until two years ago, I owned an office building on the South Side where I practiced law and rented out space to other businesses.”
DO YOU HAVE TO DO A LOT OF READING AND WRITING IN YOUR JOB?
“Yes, you do: a lot of reading. And writing, most of it on computer, responding to emails. So you need to learn how to type. And speaking of reading: how many of you made $100 last summer for reading 4 books? Great, because that’s one of the programs I started here. To learn how to read is one of the most important skills you can have.”
ARE YOU FRIENDS WITH THE PRESIDENT?
“I met the president once, when he was the vice president campaigning in Pueblo. I’m not friends with the president, but I like the president and I like what he’s doing.”
IF YOU DON’T’ GET ELECTED NEXT YEAR, WHAT JOB WILL YOU GET?
“I’ll probably retire and just relax: play a lot of golf, a lot more pickleball, ride a lot more bikes. Be a normal person, yes.”