White, Henneberry join Hickenlooper team

By Marianne Goodland

Keeping with his practice of making Republicans a part of his transition into the governor’s office, Gov.-elect John Hickenlooper on Tuesday tapped a Republican to lead the Colorado Tourism Office, and he also has brought in one of Gov. Bill Ritter’s cabinet chiefs to become the “Healthcare Exchange Planning Grant Project Director.”

Sen. Al White, R-Hayden, was named director of the Colorado Tourism Office. Joan Henneberry, executive director of the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing, will become the director of the Healthcare Exchange Planning Grant project, a year-long position funded by a federal grant tied to the Affordable Care Act.

According to a Tuesday press release issued by the governor-elect, White has “a long history of promoting tourism in Colorado, creating jobs as a small-business owner and working collaboratively with all levels of government.” 

“After fighting for Colorado’s tourism industry for over a decade in the General Assembly I am excited to begin this new endeavor,” said White. “Tourism is a great tool to create jobs that have a positive impact on the economy.”

White and his wife, Jean, spent 25 years in Winter Park as owners and operators of several full-service ski shops, a bike shop and a mountain lodge.

White also has served on several bank boards, chaired the Fraser Valley Metropolitan Recreation District, was secretary of the Grand County Water and Sanitation board, and served as vice chair of the Winter Park Fraser Valley Chamber of Commerce.

White was elected to the Colorado House in 2000, representing House District 57, and served four terms. During that time he was the House appointee to the Colorado Tourism Office board and helped secure funding for tourism promotion. He was elected to represent Senate District 8 in 2008.

White also has been on the Joint Budget Committee for the past four years. But White’s support for the Long Appropriations Bill and other JBC-sponsored budget bills drew the ire of his Republican colleagues in the Senate, and they decided after the November elections to replace him for the next session with Sen.-elect Kent Lambert, R-Colorado Springs. White’s ouster from JBC was seen as part of a move to the right from Senate Republicans, and White said he was unhappy about the change.

In a statement issued Tuesday, Assistant Minority Leader Bill Cadman said White “has been one of tourism’s strongest allies in the General Assembly. Colorado is lucky to have someone with such passion and talent leading this effort.”

According to the Hickenlooper press release, White will resign his Senate seat “in the coming weeks,” and a Republican vacancy committee will choose his replacement.

White’s departure from the legislature marks the second time in the past year that a moderate Republican on the JBC has joined a Democratic governor’s cabinet. Rep. Don Marostica, R-Loveland, left the General Assembly in 2009 to join the Ritter administration as director of the Office of Economic Development and International Trade.

Henneberry, currently the executive director at HCPF, will stay in that role until a replacement is found. She has been at the helm of HCPF since being named to the post in January, 2007. Prior to joining the Ritter administration, Henneberry spent seven years at the National Governors Association, providing consultation to states on health care services and financing, cost containment and emerging policy issues, and 13 years at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. She is currently the board chair of the Colorado Regional Health Information Organization, and is a member of the Executive Committee for the National Academy for State Health Policy. 

As director of the health care exchange project, Henneberry will be responsible for “continuing the planning phase for a health insurance exchange in Colorado as called for in the Affordable Care Act,” according to the Hickenlooper release.

“We are committed to working with consumers and businesses to effectively and efficiently provide health care services that are both affordable and accountable,” Henneberry said.

Colorado received $999,987 from the federal government to create an interagency exchange board, according to Healthcare.gov. That grant, awarded Sept. 30, allows the state to do assessments on the insurance market, develop an economic analysis of options for the exchange, set up web services, and develop the governance structure for the exchange, including recommendations on statutory changes.

Under the Affordable Care Act, and according to information on the state’s health care reform website, a state-based exchange provides a marketplace for consumers to find health care insurance. The exchange is responsible for making sure plans meet minimum benefit standards; help consumers evaluate and enroll in plans, access premium or cost-sharing subsidies; and streamline access to subsidized programs such as Medicaid, Medicare and CHIP.