The Honorable John William Suthers emphasizes he is NOT “a wild and crazy guy,” but he does have a much better sense of humor than most people think.
“I’d like to say I’m a very ‘non-flamboyant’ guy who’s lived a very interesting life, been married to the same wonderful woman for almost 48 years, all in the most beautiful city in the nation,” says Mayor Suthers. “I take my job responsibilities very seriously, but I don’t take myself too seriously. I can laugh at myself and have a great time with my staff. That really surprises people.”
If you’ve heard this one before, you’ll just have to hear it again (it’s one of Suthers’ favorites).
“I say, I’m so pleased to have my wife, Janet, in the audience tonight. Many of you know she’s been my rock all these years and she really keeps me humble. In fact, on election night when I became Colorado Springs’ mayor, I looked at my wife and said ‘honey, in your wildest dreams did you ever think you’d be married to the mayor of Colorado Springs?’ She looked at me and said ‘John, you’re never in my wildest dreams!’”
Suthers does have an interesting story, starting from the beginning of his life. He was adopted when he was three weeks old by a loving couple who settled in Colorado Springs. His father was stationed at what was then called Camp Carson (now Fort Carson). His sister was adopted five years earlier.
“I had an incredibly loving childhood – my parents were fantastic people – but I didn’t get to have them in my life as long as I would have liked,” explains Suthers. “Unfortunately, my father died of a heart attack when I was only 15 years old. My mother died just six years later, as I was graduating from college.”
Suthers says that, in hindsight, these most traumatic events of his young life had an incredible impact on the course of his life. It’s where he learned perseverance and dedication, in both his professional and personal life.
“Experiencing such loss at a young age places you immediately at a major fork in the road,” notes Suthers. “You can go one of two directions, and I chose to take the route that would make my parents proud of me. It helps explain the resolve I had as a young person to live a very meaningful and purposeful life.”
Suthers says he was lucky to earn a scholarship after high school to the University of Notre Dame. He was required to make the dean’s list every semester to keep that scholarship.
“I was totally a library nerd,” explains Suthers. “But my intensity paid off, as I graduated magna cum laude and received a scholarship from the University of Colorado Law School.”
Happy to head back to Colorado Springs, Suthers would reach another milestone in only one short year. “I met my wife, Janet, on a blind date…I always say she’s the one who was blind,” he laughs.
PROSECUTION IS HIS SIDE OF THE LAW
Suthers’ storied career started with two infamous cases, which helped him decide the prosecution side of law was where he wanted to hang his shingle.
“I started as a deputy district attorney here in Colorado Springs. I did research for a case that ended up being the serial killer Ted Bundy,” says Suthers.
“My second case involved a robbery gang who killed several witnesses including a waitress, Karen Grammer, who was the sister of an actor who would make it big – Kelsey Grammer. I knew I wanted to make a positive impact for crime victims.”
Prior to his stint as mayor of Colorado’s second largest city, Suthers honed his skills in some serious positions. He served as the attorney general of Colorado, the U.S. attorney for Colorado, executive director of the Colorado Department of Corrections and the Fourth Judicial District attorney. So how did a career lawyer decide to run for mayor?
“Interestingly,” notes Suthers, “I didn’t get into politics because I wanted to be in politics. It was because the job I wanted was in politics.”
In 2011, Colorado Springs was growing rapidly, and outgrowing a city manager form of government. The voters initiated a strong mayor form of government that could better respond to the needs of the city in a quicker and more efficient manner, according to Suthers.
“A lot of business people started asking why didn’t I forgo making a decent living for four years and run for mayor?” Suthers laughs. “There were a lot of problems in the city. Our infrastructure was a mess and we were being sued for our stormwater processes. So, Janet and I talked. We thought long and hard about it and said OK!”
Suthers became the mayor of Colorado Springs in 2015 and believes it has been his most satisfying job in terms of leadership and results.
“With the law, your job is to look at the facts, look at the law, and make the right decision,” explains Suthers. “Being mayor is rawer and more personal. You’re impacting the essence of people’s quality of life, from bike lanes to potholes – it’s very personal to each resident.”
Suthers believes, as his last year comes to an end, there has been success. He created a collaborative relationship between the mayor and the city council. The residents and city came together to invest in critical public infrastructure. And, finally, his office and city council focused on job growth.
“To put it into perspective, it took the city 143 years to build a $30 billion economy,” says Suthers. “It took eight years to grow that $30 billion to a $40 billion economy. We also went from the 98th best top city economy in 2015 to one of the top 10 economies in 2022.”
Among all the wins, Suthers’ biggest loss during his mayoral career had nothing to do with politics. It was the tragic death of his son-in-law in 2019. “There is a huge void left in our lives,” he explains. “He was being responsible, coming home from a concert in an Uber when a criminal plowed a stolen car into his Uber.”
Suthers has brought his compassion to not only his own family, but to the entire city during the last eight years, with several tragedies hitting the Colorado Springs community.
“It’s something many folks don’t understand about being in a political office such as mayor. You become the chief consoler of an entire community,” reflects
Suthers. “We’ve had three major incidents in Colorado Springs during my tenure – the shooting at Planned Parenthood, the domestic violence killing on Mother’s Day, and, of course, the Club Q shooting.” He adds, “It’s also up to me to make sure our community is defined by our reaction to these events, not by the events themselves. I’m immensely proud of our community.”
“Being mayor is one of those 24/7 jobs,” admits Suthers. “So, when you can take moments off, you make the most of them. I love to play golf with my wife on Sundays. I carry her bag and watch her play – a lot better than me.”
Suthers likes to hike at Bear Creek Park and Stratton Open Space, when he gets the time. He also absorbs strength from being with his family, especially his two young grandchildren.
“The reason I still have a sense of humor, and my sanity, is a well ordered personal life. I have a very happy marriage and two terrific daughters – who love to make fun of me when they get the chance,” he says. “I remember my younger daughter talking about what it was like to grow up as the child of the district attorney. Needless to say, nobody wanted to invite the DA’s daughters to a wild party.”
Suthers enjoys watching baseball and says he’s become a huge fan of the Colorado Springs Switchbacks. He’s also an avid reader, just finishing a book about the relationship between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson.
“I find history stranger than fiction – especially American history,” he says. “You just can’t make that stuff up.”
AFTER THE MAYORAL ELECTION
“I’m pretty excited about my life after public service,” Suthers says. “I’ll probably go down to my law office in downtown Colorado Springs. I’m honored to continue as the chair of the amazing Daniels Fund, which grants more than $80 million in college scholarships to seniors in Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, and New Mexico. And there is a new book I’m finishing.”
Suthers is the author of six books and is hoping his seventh, an autobiography, will be out in June. “All This I Saw and Part of It I Was” is the title, which is a line from a speech by General Robert Cameron given at the founding of Colorado Springs on July 31, 1871.
There will be much more time for travel, too, says Suthers. He and his wife are planning two big trips, starting with a visit to South America.
“I want to extend a huge thank you to my wife and the people of Colorado Springs. I have been able to live the life I intended to live because of this community and especially my wife,” emphasizes Suthers. “I believe my parents would’ve been proud.”
Five Things You Might Not Know About Mayor John Suthers
- Suthers has a sense of humor that surprises people. He takes his job seriously but doesn’t take himself too seriously.
- Suthers was adopted when he was three weeks old by a loving couple who settled in Colorado Springs. His father died when he was 15 and his mother died six years later, which had a significant impact on his life.
- Suthers graduated magna cum laude from the University of Notre Dame and received a scholarship from the University of Colorado Law School.
- Suthers started his career as a prosecutor and worked on cases involving serial killer Ted Bundy and a robbery gang that killed several witnesses, including Karen Grammer, sister of actor Kelsey Grammer.
- Suthers became the mayor of Colorado Springs in 2015 and believes it has been his most satisfying job in terms of leadership and results. He created a collaborative relationship between the mayor and the city council, invested in critical public infrastructure, and focused on job growth.