A look at the candidates running for the District 3 seat on Colorado Springs City Council

Colorado Springs City Hall. May 31, 2022.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
Colorado Springs City Hall. May 31, 2022.

Voters in Colorado Springs District 3 will choose a new city councilor with their mail-in ballots for the election ending on April 4. The district covers the southwest portion of the city and part of downtown. The two people running to represent the district are Michelle Talarico and Scott Hiller. Short bios for each candidate can be found at the bottom of this page.

The winner of the District 3 election will serve as a city councilor for two years which is shorter than the standard four-year city council term in Colorado Springs due to turnover in the position. Former District 3 city councilor Richard Skorman stepped down from his seat at the end of 2021 to focus on running his business. In early 2022, Stephannie Fortune was appointed to fill the vacancy but she is also stepping down for health reasons. Whoever wins this election will finish the existing term and the district will vote again in 2025.

This election will be different from the recent November contests, though, as ballots will only be accepted by mail or in a 24/7 ballot drop-off box.

Here's a quick rundown with details of the two candidates:

Where the candidates' priorities align

Both Talarico and Hill said they are supporters of parks and will work to sustain the natural beauty of the city. 

They both have strong opinions about the city's wildfire evacuation planning. Neither thinks the city has done enough to address the evacuation issue and they have concerns about the currency emergency notification methods. 

Hiller said he sees problems with evacuation planning as the most pressing problem in District 3. He's been active in opposing a development on the west side of town that he says would not only change the feel of his neighborhood, but also further complicate unclear evacuation routes. 

How the candidates differ

The most obvious difference between Talarico and Hiller is the way they say they will approach this position if they win. 

Talarico is a small-business owner and says she is an alum of Colorado College, though KRCC has not been able to confirm her attendance at the school. She is part of Picnic Basket Catering and Buffalo Gals Grilling Company, among other ventures. She has a lot of existing relationships within the Colorado Springs area and said she started her catering company more than 30 years ago with "just a little bit of cash and a prayer, a song, and an I think I can attitude." Many of Talarico's answers to KRCC's survey questions mentioned working collaboratively and building relationships.

Hiller is a geoscientist, currently working as Chief of Geosciences for a national coastal engineering firm. He has a B.S. in Geophysics from St. Louis University and a graduate degree in Geological Oceanography from Texas A&M. His work has included leading marine emergency survey teams deployed by the Army Corps of Engineers after hurricanes Dolly, Edouard, Gustav, and Ike. He also assisted with the cleanup of the Deep Water Horizon oil spill.

If elected, he said he will look at things from that perspective, as a scientist using a data-based approach that he said the current council lacks.

How the candidates say they will address homelessness

Hiller mentioned the need to study what other cities are doing and find some best practices. He also said he would advocate for quadrupling the size of the Homeless Outreach Team and for stricter enforcement of laws about illegal camping and trespassing. At the same time, he said it's important to protect the unhoused by maintaining shelters and robust services. 

For Talarico, homelessness is the most pressing issue in D3, along with affordable housing. She said the approach to making any kind of positive change should not be a one-size-fits-all thing and it will require collaboration from the community as a whole.

Stances on growth, housing, water, law enforcement

Hiller said the city should not allow "unbridled growth, the overcrowding of residential neighborhoods, nor create irrational zoning types in the name of affordable housing or growth."

Talarico mentioned needing to learn more or know more in her answers to a handful of our questions, including one about improving community relationships with Colorado Springs Police and what needs to be done to preserve the water supply. That was also the case when we asked about sustainable and responsible growth. She said she sees growth as inevitable and necessary, but she is worried about sustainability.

Other things to be aware of

Talarico was accused of lifting a statement from a blog and passing it off as her answer to a question on a candidate survey from Springs Taxpayers United.

Hiller did not submit answers to any of KRCC's survey questions about law enforcement, public safety, or transportation.

Quick responses from District 3 candidates

Would you support city councilors receiving a living wage or salary as opposed to the annual stipend of $6,250?Do you support the legalization of recreational marijuana in Colorado Springs?Would you support creating an independent board for Colorado Springs Utilities, rather than having council serve as the board?Do you support Front Range Rail?Do you support extending Constitution Avenue?Is the city adequately addressing climate change and adaptation?Do you support the ballot measure that extends the TOPS sales tax?
Michelle Renee TalaricoYesNoYesYesNoNoYes
Scott HillerYesYesYesNo answerNo answerYesYes
*The Constitution Avenue Study was removed from the transportation plan after the surveys were sent out.

The candidates responses, in full, to all of our survey questions are available following the short biographies below, which were gleaned from the candidates responses (if submitted), their websites and other sources.

Michelle Talarico

Michelle Talarico is the co-owner and sales director for Picnic Basket Catering, Cravings Five Star Events and Buffalo Gals Grilling Company. She has lived in Colorado Springs for more than 40 years. Talarico says on her campaign website that she is an alum of Colorado College. KRCC has not been able to confirm whether or not she has attended the school. She has served on the boards of various non-profits including the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, Colorado Springs Leadership Institute, Colorado Springs Diversity forum, and Care and Share. She was given the 2021 Athena Award by the Colorado Springs Chamber and Economic Development Corporation which honors community and business leaders who encourage women. Talarico's endorsements include Colorado state Sen. Bob Gardner, the Downtown Partnership of Colorado Springs, and the Pikes Peak Association of Realtors.

Talarico was accused of lifting a statement from a blog and passing it off as her answer to a question on a candidate survey from Springs Taxpayers United. She told Sixty35 she copied parts “because it was well written.” Questions are arising about other statements, according to The Gazette.

Click here to read the candidate’s responses to survey

Note: Michelle Talarico is co-owner of Picnic Basket Catering, which has been an underwriter of KRCC.

Scott Hiller

Scott Hiller has been a resident of Colorado Springs City Council District 3 since 2020. He has been a vocal opponent of a proposed apartment complex near Old Colorado City. He grew up in Houston, Texas which he says gave him a lived experience as to the importance of smart growth and proper zoning rules. Hiller has a bachelor’s degree in geophysics from St. Louis University and attended graduate school for geological oceanography at Texas A&M. Professionally, he serves as chief of geosciences for a national, coastal engineering firm and is on the board of his neighborhood homeowners association. His work has included leading marine emergency survey teams deployed by the Army Corps of Engineers after hurricanes Dolly, Edouard, Gustav and Ike. He also assisted with the cleanup of the Deep Water Horizon oil spill. Hiller also has experience related to the renewable energy industry.

Hiller's website does not list any official endorsements.

Click here to read the candidate’s responses to survey

Editor's note: This has been updated in response to questions raised about Talarico's status as an alum of Colorado College and other claims.