History of the Charter of the City of Durango

Durango, Colorado, county seat of La Plata County, is a home rule city with the council / manager form of government. According to the Colorado Constitution, "home rule" means that the citizens have "the full right of self government in local and municipal matters." By the overwhelming vote by its citizens in the election of September 3, 1912, Durango changed its governing officials from aldermen to commissioners and became the fourth city in Colorado to adopt a home rule charter. Its switch to home rule was preceded only by Denver in 1904 and Colorado Springs and Grand Junction in 1909.

Establishing Home Rule

Actual changes in the city's form of government didn't happen until 1913 and 1915; the 1912 home rule charter election started the ball rolling. The first municipal elections to select commissioners under the terms of the charter were held in April of 1913. The next month, Durango switched from having nine aldermen (a mayor and four pairs of elected council members who represented the four wards of the city) to having just three commissioners, each representing the whole of the city. The presence of two council members constituted a quorum. The three commissioners elected a mayor from among themselves.

This bare-bones commissioner form of government didn't last long; in the general municipal election on April 6, 1915, citizens voted by a large majority to change the city charter to move to a commissioner-manager form of government and to increase the number of council members from three to five. Thus Durango became one of the first municipalities in the nation to have an appointed city manager, rather than an elected mayor, as its chief administrator to manage the day-to-day operations of the city. Durango's City Council selected Andrew Hood as its first City Manager on July 6, 1915. Hood was an undertaker by profession; his company, Hood Mortuary, is still in business in Durango today at the north end of East Third Avenue.

The city's second charter election, on November 7, 1978, further refined Durango's council-manager form of government: council members henceforth were called councilmen rather than commissioners. The council members chose among themselves the mayor and mayor pro tem - as they still do today.