Apr 132009
 
Authors: Matt Minich

Before entering the political arena in 2005, Doug Hutchinson never wanted to run for mayor.

He never studied political science or aspired to serve in public office. In fact, Hutchinson wasn’t even his own first choice for the city position.

“Nobody in Fort Collins tried as hard as I did to find a good candidate for mayor,” Hutchinson said.

Along with his wife and other members of the community, he asked 14 different prominent figures in Fort Collins to run for the position. Only after being told by each that they were too busy to run the city did he decide to run in that election himself.

Almost always seen around Fort Collins in a suit and tie, Hutchinson doesn’t look like a man who runs a city. His moustache and square-rimmed glasses lend him the image of a local everyman — he looks like anyone else you’d pass on the street.

While other city officials or candidates provide numbers that go straight to voicemail and reply with terse, straightforward answers, Hutchinson says he makes an effort to be open and transparent with the community, nearly always available to accept phone calls even outside of business hours.

Whatever his approach, it’s working. Over two-thirds of almost 25,000 Fort Collins voters cast their vote to re-elect Hutchinson to his position last week. And this time, he was his own favorite, throwing his hat into the ring for the race in December.

Hutchinson has acted as the city’s mayor since 2005 and was elected this year to his third and final term. In a voice that makes even the lengthiest discussions on local issues sound more like campfire stories than local politics, Hutchinson said the results of this year’s election are a message from the city.

“They do want good governance, and they want balance,” he said.

From ‘cruising College’ to running the city

/When Hutchinson graduated from CSU in 1965, Fort Collins was a city of less than 25,000 people./ Parking was always available within a city block of the campus, he said, and the most popular recreational activity was “cruising College (Avenue).”/ /

Though his father, a founding member of the Downtown Merchants Association, which was started to unite local businesses against outside competition, had worked on the original renovations to the Old Town area, Hutchinson said he never expected to become involved in Fort Collins city politics.

Hutchinson left the city for 44 years, serving with the U.S. Air Force and working as a civilian employee with the Defense Intelligence Agency in Colorado Springs.

Hutchinson met his wife Cathy in kindergarten and the two later married during their junior year of college in 1963. /

After retiring from the DIA in 1999, Cathy and Doug Hutchinson moved into Cathy’s childhood home just east of the CSU campus./ Their son, Chris, moved to the city in 2004 and currently lives across the street from his parents./

When Doug Hutchinson first ran for mayor, all three members of the family were involved. His wife, who worked as the manager for his next two campaigns, played an organizational role in the first campaign while his son advised him on how best to convey his message of “balance” and “non-partisan leadership” to Fort Collins voters.

“‘Together We Can’ is way more than just a campaign slogan — that’s the way he lives his life,” Chris Hutchinson said./

Chris Hutchinson said citizens of Fort Collins had come to expect the mayor to be open to their concerns. His father, he said, has always had his ears turned to the voices of local voters.

One last term

In his first two terms, Doug Hutchinson said he worked to maintain a balance between a successful economy, a vibrant community and a healthy environment in Fort Collins./ This balance is what made Fort Collins the Money magazine pick for “Best Place to Live” in 2006./

Under his leadership, the council has restructured the city’s budget process and hired the city’s first chief financial officer, Mike Freeman./ Hutchinson said he has worked to keep all members of the council involved, whether or not they have similar opinions.

Eric Sutherland, who ran against Doug for mayor this year but dropped his bid in March, said though the last four years have been “the best four years in Fort Collins city council history,” but that he still wants to see more from the mayor in terms of renewable energy advocacy.

“I was definitely wanting to hold Doug’s feet to the fire on energy issues,” Sutherland said.

Hutchinson has said his efforts with Fort Zed and its Clean Energy Cluster, a local organization that hopes to create clean energy technology in the Fort Collins area, prove his dedication to the environment.

City statutes prevent the mayor from serving more than three terms, so Hutchinson will be retiring from the position in 2011./

And though he won’t be at Fort Collins’ helm in two years, his wife says the upside to that is that she’ll see more of him than she has since he took up his position four years ago.

City council beat writer Matt Minich can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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