Guest Columns

SMITH: IN MEMORY OF A TRUE GENTLEMAN

We had a friend in Ted Strickland

GUEST COLUMNIST

When my first legislative session began in 1973, Ted Strickland was the senior member of our Adams County delegation as well as the only Republican. My House District overlapped with his Senate one and we quickly got to know each other. The link initially was Jean Dubofsky who then represented Colorado Rural Legal Services and subsequently became a Justice on the Colorado Supreme Court. Jean brought a number of legislative issues to our attention including a bill of rights for mobile home tenants and changes to the law regarding civil commitments. Ted immediately offered his support and co-sponsored these and other bills to help Adams County. Although he was considered a “conservative,” he was always there when it was an issue of human rights or social concern.

He wasn’t afraid to raise taxes either. He and I sponsored an increase in Colorado’s then-scandalously low liquor taxes and, after three sessions, got it passed.

Things became a little tougher when the 1977 session began. We Democrats had lost our majority in the 1976 session, Ted became the chairman othe Joint Budget Committee, and Jim Kadlecek and I, the two Democrats struggled (often with the help of Republican Representative Betty Neale from Denver) to maintain programs we believed in. In fact, I was so angry that I refused to sign the Long Bill when it was introduced. Speaker Ron Strahle then threatened to keep me off the Conference Committee. Two things averted a fight. First, I got hit in the face with a hockey stick during a weekend hockey tournament. Carl Hilliard then wrote an article, attributing these wounds to Strahle taking me out to the woodshed for a whipping which lightened the situation.

More important, staying mad at Ted was simply impossible. He was always smiling, cheerful and courteous. You could disagree with him but you couldn’t not be his friend. That’s something that those of us who served will him will always remember.

On Wednesday, March 14, I drove to Denver, planning to visit Ted as well as another legislative colleague and friend, Eldon Cooper on Thursday. I was a day too late.

Morgan Smith, former head of Colorado’s Office of International Trade, also served in the Colorado Legislature.