Just 12 days after Rep. Jeni Arndt resigned her seat in the state House of Representatives after being elected mayor of Fort Collins, her successor is set to take the oath of office on Wednesday.
Ahead of his swearing-in ceremony, Democratic Rep.-elect Andrew “Andy” Boesenecker (pronounced base-uh-neck-er) said the speed of the replacement process speaks to the importance of some of the bills that remain before the General Assembly more than halfway through the legislative session.
“From what's called now the ‘Colorado Option,’ gun safety legislation that's coming out, transportation and any number of other things that are going to be happening late in the session, I think it's important for House District 53 to have a voice in those conversations,” he said in an interview with Colorado Politics.
A vacancy committee led by Larimer County Democratic Party House District 53 Chair Randy Ross convened last week to consider nominations to fill the vacancy before holding elections over the weekend.
Ross said Boesenecker garnered support from 43 of the 55 vacancy committee members who turned out to the county party headquarters to vote after Arndt and Larimer County Commissioner Kristin Stephens nominated him. Other candidates included attorney Dan Sapienza and Fort Collins businesswoman Ethnie Groves Treick, who along with Boesenecker had already registered to run for the seat in 2022 when Arndt would have been term-limited out of office.
According to Boesenecker, the preparation to run for office next year gave him the framework to step into the role of a state representative. He also credited his soon-to-be-colleagues for helping find his feet after spending time in the Capitol on Monday and Tuesday.
“I think that's a part of it, that sort of team mentality that we're all working together towards the same goal,” he said.
Boesenecker comes to the House with a diverse resume, most recently serving as the director of annual giving and stewardship at The Institute for Shipboard Education's Semester at Sea program. He’s also a former public school teacher and was a Lutheran clergyman, a role in which he said he “did a lot of justice and equity work in our community, specifically in regards to LGBTQ equity issues.”
That work led to connections with members of the Fort Collins legislative delegation, including Arndt, Sen. Joann Ginal and former Sen. John Kefalas, who now serves as Stephens’ colleague on the Larimer County Board of County Commissioners. Those connections in turn led to work on political campaigns, which opened his eyes to “seeing how some of these changes happen on the ground when we elect good candidates who really care about the community.”
“Before long I just thought: this is something I think that I could really expand the work that I've done in our community on a smaller scale and perhaps do it on behalf of some more folks,” he said.
But doing that work is complicated by the timing of his arrival, a fact Boesenecker noted he was keenly aware of. Quizzed on his priorities for the legislative session, Boesenecker highlighted several areas of fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, including food and housing insecurity, childcare and support for small businesses that have “really been through the ringer this last year.”
Many of those areas, though, are being addressed by bills working their way through the General Assembly this session. Boesenecker noted the fluidity of the legislative process and said he hoped to make an impact by engaging in those issues at the committee level on behalf of his constituents.
The package announced Wednesday isn't actually ready for prime time yet; most of the bills haven't been drafted, and there's the small matter of the 2021-22 budget, which is still being crafted by the six members of the Joint Budget Committee and is due to be introduced in the state Senate on April 8.
He highlighted his background as a teacher and said he would love the opportunity to serve on the House Education Committee. Boesenecker also indicated interest in serving on panels reviewing legislation on health and local government. Boesenecker was subsequently assigned to the Transportation and Local Government and Agriculture, Livestock and Water committees.
While Wednesday will be his first day on the job, Boesenecker said he won’t feel like a rookie. Aside from observing the legislative process earlier this week, he said he had been to the state Capitol a number of times to shadow Arndt and had previously testified on several bills before legislative committees.
“There's always obviously some things to learn and as a new legislator, I certainly have those growing edges as well,” he said. “But having participated in the process, I feel fairly comfortable in seeing something through to completion if given the opportunity.”
Boesenecker’s swearing-in returns the state House to a full 65 members with Democrats holding a 41-24 edge. His election also narrows the gender balance in the House from a 34/31 women-to-men split down to 33/32.
He will hold the seat through the duration of Arndt’s original term, which would have been up after fall 2022.