Departing legislators share memories, plans

Some have their sights on relaxation with friends and family, others will return fulltime to their professions, and a few said they’re looking for ways to stay involved in government or party politics.

In sharing their experiences with The Colorado Statesman, the lame duck lawmakers discuss their greatest accomplishments, let downs, and prospects for the future of partisanship in the General Assembly. (Those legislators who lost their elections in November were not included in this story, only those who were term-limited or who did not seek reelection.)

Rep. Terrance Carroll
Speaker of the House Terrance Carroll’s greatest moment from his eight-year legislative career came when members of the Tuskegee Airmen joined him on the House floor for the creation of the Tuskegee Airmen Memorial Highway.

Carroll, D-Denver, sponsored the resolution renaming an 11-mile stretch of Interstate 70 to honor the first African American military aviators in the United States armed forces who flew hundreds of missions during WWII.

New Speaker of the House Terrance Carroll, D-Denver, addresses legislators on opening day of the 2009 session.
File photo by John Schoenwalter/The Colorado Statesman

Carroll was first elected to the state legislature in 2002 from HD 7 that encompasses the northeast corner of Denver as well as Denver International Airport. Fellow Democrats chose Carroll for Speaker of the House in 2008, the first African American ever to hold that position in Colorado.

The speaker will return to work as a lawyer for Greenberg Taurig in Denver once his current term ends in January. He will also begin working with the African American Civic Engagement Initiative that inspires African Americans to get involved in public policy and act as a pipeline to develop more African American political leaders.

Legislatively, Carroll said his greatest achievements came from his work with former Senate President Peter Groff to improve educational options for at-risk students as well as his work with Gov. Bill Ritter to reduce the recidivism rate in Colorado.

Carroll’s successor will be Democrat Angela Williams who beat Republican Pauline Olvera by a wide margin. Carroll endorsed Williams early in her campaign and the two have discussed life in the legislature on multiple occasions. He told Williams to get the lay of the land and to understand who the players are and what the rules are before forging ahead. To be successful she must be patient, he said.

The toughest challenge facing Williams in HD 7, he said, is the foreclosure crisis that has hit the Montbello and Green Valley Ranch neighborhoods especially hard. Carroll said the legislature has taken steps to control unscrupulous mortgage brokers, but that more work still needs to be done.

Carroll lamented that lawmakers don’t get enough help during the session managing their numerous phone calls and information requests. He said currently legislators are given one part-time staffer who is paid $10 an hour. He would like legislators to be provided with a full-time staff who are paid a livable wage.

Carroll said he would miss all the friends he has made and plans to continue those friendships into the future.

Rep. Mike May
With his term expiring in January, House Minority Leader Mike May, R-Parker, leaves the Colorado House as the last Republican to have served in the majority. He was elected in 2002 and ends his tenure because of term limits.

Retiring House Minority Leader Mike May, R-Parker, a veteran, participates in Military and Veterans Appreciation Day at the Capitol in 2007. He’ll focus on his hotel business after serving in the legislature.
File photo by The Colorado Statesman

“I think I’m one of the longest serving minority leaders in history — now that’s no great honor,” May said with a chuckle.

Days before the election, May correctly predicted Republicans would reemerge as House majority.

“I’m looking forward to seeing a Republican majority take over,” he said. “I’m happy for them that they’ll get that opportunity coming this January.”

May, who was promoted by peers to minority leader in 2006, will focus on running his business as a hotel owner and operator following his exit from office. Even though May will no longer be shaping public policy, which he said he’d miss the most, he plans to stay active in his community. He’ll start by fundraising for a performing arts center not yet launched in Parker.

May’s successor in HD 44 will be Republican Chris Holbert from Parker who defeated write-in candidate Margie Brown, a Democrat, and unaffiliated candidate Peter Ericson. May said he’d provide Holbert with advice if he seeks it. HD 44 includes Parker, and sections of Lone Tree, Castle Pines and Roxborough Park.

“They need the freedom to pursue their own course,” May said. “I know I called on folks while I was in office on occasion for advice, and if they think they need it I’ll be happy to give it for what its worth.”

May points to three legislative accomplishments he’s most proud of. The first is the beefed up Drivers License Program, which places more restrictions on teenage drivers attaining their license.

“I was quite involved with that. We cut the traffic deaths on the highway at least in half as a result of that legislation,” he said.

May said the Clean Air Act from 2006 was a huge accomplishment for the entire state. That law made smoking indoors illegal.

Finally May said legislators were able to help public universities attain firmer financial footing with the passage of Senate Bill 3, which he sponsored. SB 3 was intended to provide universities more flexibility in determining tuition rates through 2016.

May said the hardest part about leaving the legislature would come in January when new and old faces come together for the next session.

“When it comes time for the session, it’s almost like going back to school in the fall,” he said. “You get to see all your old friends again after you’ve been gone for the summer.

“I don’t get to do that this winter.”

Rep. Paul Weissmann
House Majority Leader Paul Weissmann, D-Louisville, hopes he doesn’t sound “hokey” when he discusses what he’s most proud of from legislative career.

“It’s the stuff that people never see at the capitol,” said Weissmann, who was elected majority leader in 2008. “Really, it’s the constituent work that I’m most proud of. It’s the person who’s having trouble with their kids’ Medicaid, or the person who’s having trouble working their way through unemployment.”

Weissmann was elected in 2002 to represent HD 12, which includes Longmont and Louisville. He also served as a state senator in the early 1990s.

A bartender and manager at the Blue Parrot restaurant in Louisville, Weissmann paints himself as a normal guy who happened to serve in government. People in his district mostly agree, he explains.

“This is going to sound hokey as well, but in a lot of ways by having a normal guy who works for a living in the district also be down in the capitol, I think that it sort of helps bring faith in government,” he said. “Most people think that we’re still untouchable — politicians are these people that they never see around their communities and never work well with them. I think, at least in this district, folks don’t get that sense with me. I think that there’s been this feeling that democracy can work.”

Weissmann hasn’t totally ruled out running for public office again. After his term expires in January he’ll already have a new position at the Capitol, as chief of staff for House Democrats. He initially suggested that a new position be created in the executive branch to add to government efficiency, something he thinks he could oversee very well.

“I’ve always thought in the executive branch particularly, although also in the legislative branch, there’s really a missing piece of inner-government relations,” Weissmann said. “If you look at the executive branch they’ve got the Department of Local Affairs, and they have a separate wing that does legislative affairs.

“They really don’t coordinate much with each other and they leave the federal government out and special districts generally out. I frankly believe that there ought to be a position like that,” he said.

Weissmann was involved with orienting newly elected legislatorsa few weeks ago. He specifically trained newcomers on how to participate in committees and operate on the House floor. His advice will also be readily available to the next majority leader, he said.

The HD 12 seat now goes to Democrat Matt Jones from Louisville who defeated Republican Jeffrey Ilseman from Longmont and Libertarian Bo Shaffer from Longmont.

Weissmann said before last November’s elections, no Democrats currently serving have the experience of working in the minority. But he hopes the wisdom he and other past minority Democrats impart on newer lawmakers will hold firm.

“You hope that the stories you tell them about the way it was that they’ll appreciate it and treat the Republicans well because they deserve it. Everybody is one vote down there,” he said.

Weissmann believes that this election will bring more bi-partisan partnerships.

“When the numbers are tighter people have to work more together,” Weissmann said. “You could make the decision for gridlock if you wanted to. I frankly don’t think that the people who are still going to be there will make that decision.”

Weissmann is proud of strides that he said the Democrats made in adding to the comfort of the minority party.

“(Democrats gave) the ability for the minority leader to appoint people in conference committees. That’s huge and that’s a power they never had and now they do,” he said. “Hopefully that’s the kind of stuff that will stay. It makes sense.”

Liane “Buffie” McFadyen
The battle that Speaker Pro Tempore Liane “Buffie” McFadyen, D-Pueblo, has long waged against the private prison industry won’t end in January.

She’s continuing the fight nationally, while maintaining a foothold in HD 47, which includes Pueblo and Pueblo West.

“I won’t become the richest women in the world but hopefully I’ll have one of the most gratifying jobs,” said McFadyen, who was first elected in 2002 and became speaker pro tempore two years ago.

In 2006 and 2007 McFadyen advocated for the rescission of a state contract to private prison company GEO Group that planned to build a 1,500-bed medium security prison in Ault. GEO Group’s reputation with the state declined after previous contract disputes. Another contract dispute coupled with public uproar derailed the project in Ault.

“I hope I was a big part of their decision not to continue efforts to build private prisons in Colorado, most specifically in Pueblo and Ault,” McFadyen said.

While finishing a land annexation project she started a year and half ago in Pueblo, McFadyen said she would continue advocating for public correctional officers at the local, state and federal level. At the same time, she said she’d continue fighting private prisons.

“Will I be impacting pubic policy? Maybe,” she said. “Hopefully having an impact on the private prison industry and not to their favor.”

McFadyen leaves Colorado government with an intense trust of its integrity.

“I believe you can’t buy a vote in Colorado. I don’t believe you have lobbyists that want to buy a vote either,” McFadyen said. “I think that’s something that’s very special and something you don’t see everywhere else, including Congress.”

Among her top accomplishments, McFadyen said she’s proud of her work as chair of the Capitol Development committee, which managed upgrades on state buildings with the most neglected maintenance needs. Improving state properties boosts the state’s bond ratings, she said.

“It’s not real sexy but it is important to keep the assets of the state in good order,” McFadyen said.

McFadyen also praised her colleagues on the Transportation and Energy committee that she chaired the past four years. She said the committee helped implement legislation for Gov. Bill Ritter’s new energy economy, as well as negotiate an end to the Denver taxi cab fight on the eve of the Democratic National Convention in Denver in 2008.

“The Transportation and Energy committee was a committee made up of representatives with a great deal of integrity with the goal of solving problems together as Democrats and Republicans,” she said.

Working as regional partner with former Sen. Abel Tapia, D-Pueblo was also among McFadyen’s highlights. She hopes their efforts provided southern Colorado with “vocal” representation.

McFadyen said her one year serving in the minority “wasn’t overtly pleasant, but it was a great opportunity to talk less and listen more and learn the job.

“I hope it made me fair. Hopefully it made being in the majority a lot more enjoying,” she said.

This year’s election was the first in recent memory that McFadyen hasn’t worked with a campaign or even paid attention to the scores of television advertisements. She said she’s getting some much needed rest as she prepares to wage fresh advocacy battles.

“Every job has its challenges and I need new ones,” she said.

McFadyen will be succeeded by Republican Keith Swerdfeger, who defeated Democrat Carole Partin.

Rep. Jack Pommer
Education policy is among both the greatest accomplishments and disappointments for Rep. Jack Pommer, D-Boulder.

Pommer, elected to represent HD 11 in 2002, finishes his eight year career in the state House proud that he was able to help maintain a “decent level of funding for schools,” and reworking how special education is funded.

“That needed to be done and we got that done,” he said.

Pommer, however, is disappointed in the overall advancement of the state’s education system. In the last session Pommer voted against Senate Bill 191, the landmark education bill that will eventually roll out a new evaluation system for educators.

“Education kind of spun out of control there,” said Pommer, who also served as the chair of the Appropriations Committee. “We know what we need to do to improve the system of schools but it is expensive and hard work, so we tend to opt for whatever get rich scheme is popular.

“So we bounce around from these so called free market solutions to high stakes testing to apparently getting rid of teachers, to all kinds of stuff without addressing the root problem. That’s a real disappointment,” he said.

Pommer said education officials don’t do well enough to tap data collected from commissioned and sometimes mandated studies.

“To this day the state department of education, after collecting more than a decades worth of data about so-called student achievement, can’t tell you which school districts are doing well and which ones are doing poorly. They can’t tell you what school is doing well either,” he said.

Despite these perceived miscues, Pommer hopes future sessions will bring major improvements to education. When it comes to advice for his successors though, he stops short.

“It seems like when you get elected, people are always offering you advice and it never really amounts to much,” he said. “Most people have enough common sense to navigate the capitol.

“But if there’s specific issues that somebody wants my opinion on, my successor or anyone else, I’d be happy to offer it. But I think most people can figure out the issues pretty well. But it doesn’t hurt to have new ideas coming in.”

Democratic candidate Deb Gardner defeated Republican Wes Whiteley in the race to replace Pommer in HD 11, which covers parts of Longmont and Boulder.

After his term expires in January, Pommer’s only plans so far involve relaxing and “catching up on things around the house.” He said he’s not particularly looking for another job in government. Pommer used to operate a small television production company and, while he doesn’t plan on doing that again, he might attempt to work in media.

Among other accomplishments Pommer includes the Clean Air Act he helped pass. He’s also proud of doubling the requirements for the state’s renewable energy portfolio in 2006.

“That’s helped move us into not just a stronger economy because we have generated a lot of business with it, but also a safer, more secure and ultimately less expensive supply of energy for people,” he said.

One of the largest problems facing future general assemblies is the transportation deficit.

“Local government does the planning and state covers the cost. As a result we’ll never, ever catch up with transportation costs. We’ll just keep digging a bigger and bigger deficit,” he said.

Rep. Michael Merrifield
Rep. Michael Merrifield, D-Colorado Springs, hoped his career in public office didn’t have to end. However, he lost his election bid for El Paso County Commissioner in District 5 to Republican Peggy Littleton.

“If I lose then I’m going to have to start looking into other alternatives,” he said prior to the election.

Merrifield proudly looks back at his eight-year career in the House, spanning from 2002, when he was first elected. Like other representatives, Merrifield said it was his passion for improving the state for the betterment of its citizens that initially brought him to the state House.

“I’m proud of the fact that I think that I was probably known as somebody who would speak the truth even when it was detrimental to me personally,” Merrifield said.

He said his greatest legislative accomplishments were the Tenants and Landlords bill, the Rest in Peace bill, which allots a physical bubble of space for families grieving fallen soldiers at services, and the Concurrent Enrollment bill, which allows high school students to also take college courses.

Merrifield laments the increasingly negative and partisan atmosphere between Democrats and Republicans at the capitol. He said cross-aisle camaraderie and friendships used to be common but that’s changing.

“When we were in the minority I can remember the times when we would go out after we had our arguments and debates and actually have a drink and dinner with the people on the other side of the aisle,” he said. “But now it’s very difficult to maintain relationships on the other side of the aisle, although I have to say I’m proud of some of the friendships I’ve developed with some of my Republican colleagues.”

Merrifield offers three different sets of advice for the winner of the seat: “Don’t believe something the first time you’re told it; don’t agree to run any bills right off the bat until you’re absolutely positive you know what the results are and who’s behind them; and learn where all the bathrooms are.”

Democrat Pete Lee will succeed Merrifield. He defeated Republican Karen Cullen from Manitou Springs. HD 18 covers parts of Colorado Springs and Manitou Springs.

Rep. Joel Judd
Rep. Joel Judd, D-Denver, smiles every time he drives past highway signs warning drivers that the “heat is on.” A few years ago, a drunken driver killed a family in downtown Denver, which is part of his legislative district, and Judd was outraged.

He was instrumental in expanding the use of interlocks to first time DUI offenders — the Breathalyzer installed in vehicles ensuring the driver’s sobriety — as well as the expanded high intensity drunk driving enforcement program known as “The Heat is On” from four weekends a year to 12.

“The lasting thing over the long haul was that we were actually able to do something good for folks,” Judd said about his time with the legislature.

Judd was first elected to the state house from House District 5 in 2002 after winning a close Democratic primary by 615 votes. He went on the win the general election by a large margin and was easily reelected in subsequent years. This heavily Democratic district encompasses most of downtown Denver, including the renovated lower downtown area known as LoDo, as well as the Capitol building.

The term-limited representative will continue practicing law after he concludes his tenure. Judd lost to Lucia Guzman in the August Democratic primary in Senate District 34 — 62 percent to 38 percent. Judd said he would miss working with public policy issues.

“The process of wrestling with public policy issues is truly stimulating and invigorating,” Judd said. “I enjoyed the folks I worked with and we actually managed to solve some problems.”

The biggest challenge still facing HD 5 is the imbalance between revenue streams and traditional government services, Judd said. He anticipates that Colorado will not have the revenue to provide services that Coloradans expect. Either services must be cut or revenues must be increased, or a combination of the two, to sustain the norm, Judd pointed out. He worries that education will be bear the brunt of funding cuts.

Judd said his focus on the $2 billion a year drained from the state’s general fund from tax credits and exemptions is his greatest accomplishment. He said Colorado awards 160 credits and exemptions, ranging from large exemptions from personal groceries to narrow special interest credits. Judd spotlighted how these exemptions impact the state.

Judd said cramming 600 bills into the 120-day session was the biggest challenge. He added that legislators just don’t have enough time to examine potential legislation in much depth.

Judd will be succeeded by Democrat Crisanta Duran, who defeated Republican Ronnie Nelson.

Rep. Jerry Frangas
Rep. Jerry Frangas, D-Denver, said he has always gravitated towards helping people. He doesn’t know where he will be after his term ends in January, but he is certain he will work for the greater good.

Before being elected to represent House District 4 in 2002, Frangas worked for the homeless in Denver and then as a caseworker for Douglas County. He graduated with a M.A. in social work from the University of Denver in 2000 and may pursue a Ph.D. in the same field.

The term-limited legislator said he enjoyed the feeling that he was working for the people of the state. Frangas said he always tried to find common ground among colleagues and listened to all sides of an issue.

“I think those times where I would be working with my colleagues, either Democrat or Republican, and we had those moments where we could find something that truly worked for the state first, and the party second, was good policy,” Frangas reflected on his best moments in the legislature.

The toughest part of the job for Frangas was attempting to jam policy development into a five-month window. He said the short time period doesn’t always create the best policy.

The greatest challenge facing his district in northwest Denver is the same for all of Colorado, he said. Jobs and a poor economy threaten HD 4 along with cuts to education. He said high crime rates also specifically plague his district.

Frangas said Democrat Dan Pabon, his successor who defeated Republican Rick Nevin and Libertarian Marc Goddard, must remember that standing up for the people in HD 4 is not always going to be popular with special interests or other legislators.

“You’re not going to win always and that is very hard, but you have to continue standing up for the people in your district,” Frangas said. “If you care about Colorado and your community that is how you have to do it.”

Frangas unsuccessfully ran for the Denver City Council District 1 seat in May, but lost to Paula Sandoval.

Sen. Josh Penry
When former Senate Minority Leader Josh Penry, R-Grand Junction, announced his plans last year to retire from the Legislature when his term ended, he — and many Republicans across the state — hoped he might simply move to the first floor of the Capitol building as the new occupant of the Governor’s office when Bill Ritter left in January. But Penry’s plans abruptly ended a few weeks after his official candidate announcement when he unexpectedly dropped out of the govenor’s race for personal reasons.

Sen. Josh Penry, R-Grand Junction, talks with Sen. Nancy Spence, R-Centennial, during a campaign stop at the Morrison Inn in
July 2009. Penry dropped out of the governor’s race a few weeks later and is now working in the private sector.
File photo by Jason Kosena/The Colorado Statesman

Penry, who went on to manage Senate candidate Jane Norton’s campaign after her first manager was axed last spring, has had somewhat of a tumultuous year, but has landed on his feet. He has recently taken a job with a small consulting company called EIS Solutions. Based in his home town of Grand Junction, Penry said he will mostly work out of its Denver office on 17th Street handling “soup to nuts government relations work, marketing and regulatory matters” for a wide variety of companies. It won’t entail lobbying his former colleagues.

“I’m looking forward to it,” he said. “I had a number of intriguing opportunities and offers frankly, at trade associations and actually a number of government offices as well. This is something I haven’t done and it won’t be as grueling or time consuming” as his past few years in public service. “Being in the Legislature is obviously a good way to go broke,” he quipped about those days. “The constant back and forth on $30,000 a year takes its toll financially.”

There were also missed opportunities to watch his now 8-year-old son play in football games back home, Penry lamented.” You give up a lot to be in public life.”

Plus, Penry said, the whole nature of politics over at the Gold Dome can be “notoriously juvenile — back stabbing, name calling, finger pointing — there are certain aspects of the job I won’t miss, but it comes with the territory. I’m looking forward to being able to take a step back and live a normal life.”

If there was a downside to being in elective office, there were surely some wonderful opportunities as well, Penry said. “I loved the policy making and there were a lot of wonderful people in that building — legislators and some of the lobbyists,” he allowed. “It was an incredible experience. The day-to-day activity is something I’ll remember favorably and I’ll miss it, but I’m also ready for new opportunities.”

Among the accomplishments he looks back on is the honor of having been elected leader of his Republican caucus during the third year of his first term. In terms of policy, Penry said the work he did his first year with Rep. Russ George in chairing the Colorado Water for the 21st Century Act tops the list. “It was the most important water bill in a couple of generations and that was a really great way to start,” he said.

Penry’s advice to new members of the legislature: learn the budget, he said. “The most relevant people in that building are those who speak the language of the state budget. Make yourself relevant by being conversive. You can’t drive solutions if you don’t understand the budget or what’s at stake.”

The second piece of advice, Penry continued, was actually passed on to him his first year by former Gov. Bill Owens, who served in both chambers of the leislature before being elected state treasurer and then governor. And that is, take advantage of the resources that are available. Use Legislative Council and Legislative Services as your personal staff, Penry urged. “They’re probably glad to see me go, I worked them so hard and used them so much.”

And the last thing he’d advise, Penry continued, would be for legislators to enjoy the total experience. “It is fleeting in a state with term limits. Every person is on the clock so enjoy it while you can. Make an impact.”

Might we see the return of Josh Penry to the world of elective office?

“I love politics, I love public policy and I have some ability at it,” Penry said last week. In six, eight, 10 or 12 years I may re-engage.” But for now, the 34-year-old said, he’s happy to be watching from the sidelines.

“I’m delighted to see Brandon (Shaffer, Senate president) and Frank (McNulty, House Speaker) work together on redistricting. That was smart. And I am delighted that Republicans will have a say in how things work out.

“It’s nice to be able to exhale a little bit, take a step back and live a normal life,” Penry said about his immediate future.

Sen. Moe Keller
The highlight of a 16-year legislative career came as Sen. Moe Keller, D-Wheat Ridge, watched her mental health bill become law alongside individuals directly impacted by the legislation.

To Keller’s surprise numerous advocates and individuals who had helped to pass the legislation by testifying in committee hearings and contacting their legislators showed up at the bill signing.

“I looked around that room at all those people, all average citizens who showed up and made a difference and saw the results of their advocacy and their willingness to be involved come to fruition with public policy change,” Keller said. “It was amazing.”

Keller has devoted her life to advocating for child welfare and for individuals with mental illness. She spent 25 years as a special education teacher in the Jefferson County and Denver public schools before a six-year stint with the Wheat Ridge City Council, eight years representing House District 24 and eight representing Senate District 20 — the suburban district containing all of Wheat Ridge and Golden, with portions of Arvada, Lakewood, and Edgewater.

Keller, elected in 1994, is term-limited and will become the vice president of public policy and systems advocacy for Mental Health America, a non-profit advocate for people with mental illness and their families. She will be replaced in SD 20 by Democrat Cheri Jahn who defeated Republican John Odom.

She will miss the dynamic of public policy creation where on any given day she could study child welfare, water law, the prison system and higher education. Keller said she would miss the level of activity inside the Capitol building.

“I liked the momentum, the excitement and the networking one needed to have to be able to influence public policy,” Keller said.

Her crowning achievement as a legislator resides in two pieces of legislation. The first implements permanency planning for children in foster care and the second allows for parents to have a residential level of care for their children without charges being filed against them.

For Keller, the state legislature’s worst trait is the mounting level of partisanship. Throughout the 1990s Keller said legislators would work across party lines. She fondly remembers laughing over lunch at the popular City Grille restaurant across the street from the Capitol before committee meetings with members from both sides of the aisle. She said a level of a camaraderie and willingness for compromise existed that is rapidly becoming extinct. Now, she said, compromise has turned into a lock down no.

“That is not democracy in action, it is ideology in action,” Keller lamented. “And I am very, very sorry to see that happen.”

Sen. Dave Schultheis
Sen. Dave Schultheis, R-Colorado Springs, said he is not walking off into the sunset when he retires from the state legislature in January. Although he says he’s certain that elective office is not in his future, he will still be involved in politics.

After ten years in the Legislature — two years representing House District 22, four with House District 14 and four in Senate District 9, he will most likely begin work with area tea party groups. Schultheis plans to educate various grassroots organizations about the inner workings of state government.

“I could do more with grassroots efforts and help groups answer the question, ‘what do we do after the election is over?’ ” Schultheis explained.

Schultheis was first elected to the state House in 2000. He replaced then-Sen. Doug Lamborn in 2006 to represent SD 9 when Lamborn ran for Congress. The district encompasses the Air Force Academy along with the northern part of Colorado Springs.

Holding extremely firm to the principles of liberty, freedom and limited government is what Schultheis said is his proudest accomplishment in the legislature. He said he always tried to stand up for his beliefs regardless of who was for or against them. To Schultheis, the most important advocate was himself.

“The respect as a result of that has been very strong,” Schultheis said. “I always wanted to hold firm whether it was my party or the other party moving towards greater government involvement.”

In 2005, Schultheis said he became the strongest advocate against illegal immigration into Colorado. Although many of the bills he sponsored were never passed, Schultheis believes he made an impact by raising the level of awareness surrounding the controversial issue.

Schultheis said he particularly enjoyed counseling fellow legislators when he thought their actions began to stray from a limited government philosophy. One legislator, in particular, never strayed far from that ideal, he said. Rep. Kent Lambert, a fellow Republican from El Paso County, saw eye to eye with the senator on nearly every issue and is why Schultheis said he is comfortable giving up his seat, which will be filled by Lambert.

For Schultheis, the biggest challenge facing Lambert in SD 9 will be making painful cuts to shrink the size and scope of government.

“It’s going to take a lot of courage,” Schultheis said. “It means there are going to be various programs cut that people have been used to. In some respects the Republicans don’t have any choice because the Democrats have not done any cutting, so we are going to have to do it.”

Schultheis left the Capital before he is term limited in order to spend more time with his family.

Sen. Ken Kester
Sen. Ken Kester, R-Bent, is ready for some rest and relaxation. His vacation home in Arizona hasn’t seen much activity over the years and Kester said it’s time to get reacquainted.

He spent 28 years in politics — four terms as a Bent County Commissioner and four in the state legislature — and now the term-limited senator is ready to move on.

“I have just not been able to do a lot of things that I would like to do myself,” Kester said.

Kester was first elected to the state house in 1998 representing HD 47 in southeast Colorado. In 2002, he moved into the upper chamber to represent SD 2, the largest geographical district in Colorado encompassing most of the southeast corner of the state with the exception of the city of Pueblo.

Kester is proud of several pieces of legislation he carried, but said that overall his ability to work across the aisle without animosity was his greatest achievement. Legislatively, Kester is pleased with his effort to keep the Army from expanding into Piñon Canyon as well as measures to help the deaf and hard of hearing.

The challenges facing SD 2 are the same as the rest of the nation in high unemployment rates and a struggling economy, he said. Kester would tell his successor to listen to the other party before forging ahead with new policies. He believes his willingness to work across the aisle is why so many of his bills passed.

“I think you have to go up there knowing that not everything is going to be done as maybe you would like, but you have to accept that and move on and do what’s best,” Kester said.

The partisanship bothered him. During his 16 years as Bent County Commissioner, Kester said he served with two Democrats, but they never let their party affiliation get in the way. Kester attempted to take this bi-partisan approach to Denver and he said it didn’t always work out as planned.

“There is just too much of that partisanship,” Kester said. “We can’t have that to accomplish things. We need to be more open.”

Kester will be succeeded by Republican Kevin Grantham, who defeated Democrat Gloria Stultz.

— Authors Valenti and Bowe are former Statesman interns. Jody Hope Strogoff also contributed to this story.

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