Ross Cunniff, a former president of the Poudre School District Board of Education, Tuesday announced his intention to run for mayor of Fort Collins in the April 5, 2011 election.
â€œI want to continue the tradition of strong and open local city government, and I believe that my experience in the school board makes me a very strong candidate,â€ Cunniff said.
Cunniff has lived in Fort Collins for almost 24 years and currently works as a Director of Software at NVIDIA, a computer technology company. He served on the Poudre School District Board of Education for eight years and spent three of those years as the president.
December is a very early time to announce candidacy for the city election, with most candidates holding off their announcements until early January, according to Rita Harris, the chief deputy city clerk of Fort Collins.
Candidates canâ€™t technically petition to be on the ballot until February, at which point they need 25 signatures from registered Fort Collins voters to be considered.
â€œIt is unusual, and very early, for candidates to announce their bids for city positions,â€ said Doug Hutchinson, the current mayor of Fort Collins.
Cunniff met with Hutchinson last month to discuss the mayoral position and what city leadership entails, though at the time he didnâ€™t tell Hutchinson of his intention to run.
Hutchinson, a CSU graduate, has served his term limit and will therefore not be running in the 2011 election. At this time, no other candidates have been announced.
Cunniff says his main strengths as a candidate stem from his years of experience holding a public office, and that his abilities to conduct meetings effectively and maintain an open dialogue between officials and community members will translate well to the mayoral position.
His main campaign talking point will be his goal of continuing the current traditions of the local city government, but also focusing on jobs and the economy, an efficient use of tax dollars and continuing to keep Fort Collins neighborhoods safe.
With two college-aged daughters, Cunniff says that he wants to reach out to the student community in Fort Collins.
Cunniff said the controversial housing ordinance 3-Unrelated â€“â€“ known as U 2, which prevents more than three unrelated people from living in one home â€“â€“ is a tough issue he will need to explore. He added, though, that he sympathizes with college studentsâ€™ need to find cheap housing.
â€œThe student population is a very important constituency, and I hope to maintain a good dialogue with them if I am elected,â€ he said.
Cunniff volunteers extensively in Fort Collins â€“â€“ primarily with Centennial Childrenâ€™s Chorus, the Food Bank for Larimer County and for Timberline Church as a Sunday School teacher â€“â€“ and is an avid cyclist, hiker and kayaker.
When asked to sum up his strengths as a candidate in a single sentence, he said that it boils down to his â€œproven leadership and passion for Fort Collins.â€
â€œI want to use my experience and skills to continue to make Fort Collins great,â€ Cunniff said.
Outdoor Life Beat Reporter Allison Sylte can be reached at email@example.com.