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Politics and Government

Nick Gradisar bests Steve Nawrocki to become Pueblo’s first mayor in more than 60 years

Nawrocki conceded to Gradisar on Tuesday night, saying he “can count on me for anything needed to make this transition ... a successful one”

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Nick Gradisar will become Pueblo’s first mayor in more than 60 years.

Nick Gradisar. (Handout)

The lawyer and longtime political fixture in the southern Colorado city had a wide lead over former Pueblo City Council President Steve Nawrocki as runoff election results rolled in Tuesday night.

Nawrocki conceded shortly after 7 p.m., when the tally reached 11,858 votes for Gradisar and 8,564 votes for Nawrocki.

“Congratulations to Nick Gradisar,” Nawrocki said in a Facebook post. “He can count on me for anything needed to make this transition to a new form of city government a successful one.”

Gradisar and Nawrocki were the top two vote-getters among a field of 16 candidates who were running for the city’s top job in November. Neither secured more than 50 percent of the vote, which triggered Tuesday’s runoff.

Many hope that Gradisar will be able to shepherd an economic revitalization for the city as its first mayor since the 1950s.

MORE: Pueblo will elect its first mayor in decades today. Here’s why the city hopes the move will be a watershed moment.

Pueblo has been one of only two governments in the state to use a city manager-city council form of government without a mayor. But voters in 2017 narrowly backed a ballot question switching to a strong mayor-city council system, similar to that of Denver and Colorado Springs.

Backers of the switch to a strong-mayor form of government feel the city needs a leader to present a unified voice to the rest of the state and someone to streamline major projects.

Gradisar ran on a platform of increasing economic activity by tapping into the growth of the rest of Colorado.

“We need some increased economic activity so that young people who want to stay in Pueblo are able to get careers and good-paying jobs,” Gradisar told The Colorado Sun during the campaign. “We’ve got a high rate of poverty here. That’s one of the things we have to address.”

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