Guest Columns


Jim Kadlecek brought energy, ideas, productivity, fun to Joint Budget Committee

By Morgan Smith

“Keep an eye on that Kadlecek kid. He does his homework and he’d be a damned good budget committee member.”

— Sen. Joe Shoemaker, R-Denver, commenting to Sen. Ruth Stockton, R-Jefferson County, during the 1974 legislative session.

Yes, Jim Kadlecek was a great budget committee member and a superb legislator. So it was a terrible shock to hear from his brother, Jack, late Monday night that Jim, who was 70, had died suddenly that morning.

Jim, a state senator from Greeley, served with me on the Joint Budget Committee during the 1977 and 1978 sessions. I had served the previous two years when we Democrats had a majority in the House. So going from being JBC chairman in 1976 to a minority member in 1977 was a devastating blow. Fortunately, Jim became the Senate Democratic member that year, bringing new energy and ideas.

In particular, he knew how to work the Republicans. One example: Art Herzberger, R-Colorado Springs, the JBC chairman in 1978, hated Legal Aid and swore to eliminate its funding. During the markup, however, one of his favorite Colorado Springs programs came up for a vote and we defeated it. He was crushed.

“Let me try to help,” offered Jim. He then made a motion combining funding for Art’s program and Legal Aid. Art squealed, but the motion passed — with the help of Rep. Betty Neale, a wonderful Republican legislator from Denver — and Legal Aid survived for another year.

During noon hours, we would go to an athletic club on South Broadway for intensive racquetball games that involved Jim, his brother, Jack; a svelte and ferocious Cliff Dodge; the tireless David Greenberg; David Foote, then head of the Office of Planning and Budgeting, and others. Jim was as tough and relentless on the court as he was in the Legislature.

He was also a favorite of the JBC staff, despite his occasional cigars. One afternoon they presented him with a “computer.” As shown in the photo, it was a pencil with an electrical cord taped to it.

Despite our status as minority members of the JBC, Jim made those two years both productive and fun. It was an honor to have served with him, and it’s tragic that someone of his talents is gone so soon. My deepest condolences to his family.

A Mass and a memorial service honoring Jim Kadlacek will be held at 2 p.m. Sunday, July 20, at St. Peter’s Historic Catholic Church, 915 12th St., Greeley. It will be followed at 3:30 p.m. with a reception at the Regency Hotel, 701 Eighth St., Greeley.

Morgan Smith, Democrat, served in the Colorado House of Representatives from 1973 to 1978 and was Chairman of the Joint Budget Committee in 1976.