Newbies come to Legislature with eyes wide open

By Jimy Valenti
THE COLORADO STATESMAN

Rep. Brian DelGrosso, R-Loveland, and Rep. Max Tyler, D-Lakewood, may sit on opposite sides of the aisle, but these freshman legislators came to their first day on the job last week by similar paths — both were elected last year by vacancy committees to fill open seats.

Rep. Brian DelGrosso

DelGrosso replaced Rep. Don Marostica, R-Loveland, in House District 51 after Marostica was named director of the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade.

A virtual unknown in party politics prior to his election, DelGrosso defeated two better-known candidates.

DelGrosso, who started out as a Dominos pizza delivery driver, now owns three of the franchises himself.

“I kind of lived the American dream in a way,” he said.

Tyler was elected by the vacancy committee to fill the seat vacated when Rep. Gwyn Green, D-Golden, retired last year after serving most of her three terms in House District 23. Tyler had worked with Green on her campaigns and had been chair of the Jefferson County Democratic Party for several years.

He owned three small businesses before joining the Legislature. Coming in, Tyler said he didn’t know what traits would rise to the surface and said he finds himself analyzing legislation with a business eye.

“I think I’ve stunned a few people on the other side of the aisle by some of the questions I’ve been asking,” said Tyler.

Rep. Max Tyler

Both men are starting out amidst possibly the worst recession since the Great Depression, with a state deficit of at least $1 billion this year.

Speaker Pro Tempore Buffie McFadyen, D-Pueblo West, said that there are not many legislators left from the last recession of 2003 and their experience is vital in shaping how the state moves forward. She said this crop of new representatives will have valuable experience when similar problems arise in the future.

“It’s going to be very important that we follow what’s being done this year,” said McFadyen. “They [DelGrosso and Tyler] will carry the institutional memory in eight years and that’s very important because with term limits a lot of institutional memory is lost.”

DelGrosso and Tyler both expressed excitement in their first day on the job.

“I guess I felt like a little kid in there,” said DelGrosso, whose three children were in attendance along with his wife.

“What struck me more than anything, and this is a little sappy, was the national anthem,” said Tyler. “I have never heard it when I’m standing in the position where I’m a part of the government of we the people. That’s quite a responsibility. “

DelGrosso grew up in Cheyenne and began delivering Dominos pizzas while a student at Larimer Community College. Eventually, he became manager and then operations director for 20 stores, overseeing 300 employees.

DelGrosso was able to save enough money to purchase his own Dominos franchise and now owns two in Loveland and one in Windsor. He said that he decided to get involved in politics because of what he saw as a small business owner.

“As a business person I got tired of the overall environment I saw year after year after year,” said DelGrosso, “I just kind of felt that as a business guy I needed to get involved somewhere.”

DelGrosso sits on the Finance Committee and the State Affairs Committee. He is currently weary of the potential elimination of business tax credits and exemptions in the effort to help balance the state’s books.

“We may get a short term influx of cash by eliminating a lot of these but in the long term its really bad for business,” said DelGrosso.

According to DelGrosso, businesses incorporate these cuts into their bottom lines. He said if they are eliminated, people would eventually be laid off.

Tyler said his business background will influence his future decisions, but that his political values came first, and he cited the importance of people to any business or economy.

“You don’t exist without your people,” said Tyler. “You need to take care of them, you need to treat them fairly, you need to provide them a good wage, provide benefits, and they will take care of you.”

Tyler is currently sponsoring House Bill 1001, a bill that will increase Colorado’s renewable energy standard — the amount of power utility companies are required to generate from green sources — from 20 to 30 percent by 2020.

“I’m jumping in with both feet,” said Tyler.

House Speaker Terrance Carroll, D-Denver, highlighted the bill in his opening day speech to the House.

“This bold initiative will make Colorado’s clean energy standard one of the most aggressive in the country, and stake our state’s claim as an undisputed leader,” said Carroll.

The bill also further defines green energy as wind, geothermal and biomass in addition to solar. It will also change how government bids are rewarded to energy companies by taking into account employee wages, benefits and the number of Colorado workers employed instead of just accepting the lowest bid.

Eighth-year-legislator McFadyen said her best piece of advice for incoming legislators is to work hard and stay honest.

“It’s up to you to lobby your bills, its up to you to keep your word and that’s how you gain support and respect for legislation in a bi-partisan manner,” said McFadyen.

Jimy@coloradostatesman.com

(Additional reporting by Anthony Bowe)