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COVER STORY: MOVING ON | The class of 2020 reflects on what they learned

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Before we say hello to 2021, we should say goodbye to public servants in the legislature moving on after reaching term limits, heading back to civilian life, or becoming a part of other public offices.

Colorado Politics caught up with most of the class of 2020, and this is what they had to say about their time in the General Assembly, the perspectives they gained and what's ahead.

Rep. Perry Buck, R-Greeley

House District 49, Larimer and Weld counties

Years in the legislature: 8

Succeeded by: Rep.-elect Michael Lynch, R-Wellington

What made you want to run for the legislature to begin with?

I’ve always believed in public service. I never got to serve in the military, and I believe everybody should step up for public service in whatever arena they can. My parents were an incredible example of public service — my mother was on the school board and my father served on the Weld County commission and was in the state legislature. Also, it takes family. Ken (Buck) is probably the most politically astute person I know.

The opportunity came up when my predecessor was drawn out of her district. I called others to encourage them to run but none were interested. If you don’t have it within you, you shouldn’t run — you run because you think you can make a difference. My faith is big, so I just prayed about it and pulled that trigger.

Was it what you thought it'd be?

No. I didn’t have any expectations, but I would tell everybody, it’s probably 120 days – I call it ‘in the bunker,’ going from 7 in the morning until 9 o’clock at night, and you are actively engaged during those times.

I loved working with people in my district. Getting to help people in my district made it worth it — that’s what your job is, knowing you have a faster track to help people – in Estes Park after the flood, writing letters of recommendations for grants, helping people with their unemployment — that was what I lived for.

What did you learn from the experience?

So much! It’s fascinating because what you hear — whether it’s education, transportation, agriculture — there always seems to be the rest of the story, as Paul Harvey used to say. It’s like peeling an onion, especially learning what you don’t know. You have to stay actively engaged, whether it’s with your own caucus or your senators or lobbyist or Legislative Council, there’s so much you have to acquire to make good, solid decisions.

If you had it to do over, what do you wish you'd known coming in that you know now?

I don’t know if you can really prepare. You really have to be open-minded to learn. You shouldn’t have an preconceived notions, you really need that open mind and to listen. It’s just like school – you have to be attentive. Somebody tells you one thing, there’s always going to be another side. That’s what I felt I did a good job of as a legislator, was learning as much as I could from all sides.

What advice would you give people just starting or thinking about running for the legislature?

You have to challenge yourself to be actively vigilant to learn and to seek the truth and to represent your constituents, because they’re the ones you want to make proud. I tell a lot of people, I’m just like you, I just have a lot more employers.

What's next?

Weld County commissioner — I’m coming home, and I couldn’t be more excited! I couldn’t be more grateful, more humbled, more honored. I’m still pinching myself.

Rep. Richard Champion,
R-Columbine Valley

House District 38, Columbine Valley, part of Littleton

Years in the legislature: 1

Succeeded by: Rep.-elect David Ortiz, D-Littleton

What made you want to run for the legislature to begin with?

It might be considered old fashioned, but I thought I might be able to effectuate some sense of fiscal responsibility with my colleagues in the statehouse with some of the skills I acquired as a former mayor, police commissioner and building commissioner. I went into the state legislature sincerely believing that the majority of legislators wanted to help Coloradans, and not legislate for their own purposes. With some notable exceptions (unfortunately), I found this to be the case.

Was it what you thought it'd be?

No. I expected some give and take from both sides of the aisle, but what I found was a Democrat supermajority that was tyrannical and myopic, not caring for any of the viewpoints the other side was attempting to convey. I believe super majorities make for bad government, because it completely discounts the will of the minority representatives and the voice of the people they represent. I shockingly found instead that our entire state is run by Boulder, Denver and the six counties surrounding the metro area leaving many people, and especially the folks on the western slope and the eastern plains and southern areas of our state disregarded.

What did you learn from the experience? If you had it to do over, what do you wish you'd known coming in that you know now?

One of the things I learned from my experience was that being a representative is a full-time job. I naïvely believed in the original intent of our founding fathers, that the legislature was to be run by citizens who were part-time legislators, but the huge amount of money distributed by state government and the demands for such funding makes that impossible to do the job effectively. As such, I found it was truly a full-time job and if you do not treat it as such, you are doing a disservice to your constituents. Secondarily, one of the things I wish I would have known going in was that the state Republican party cares little for the state legislature. I was shocked by the lack of support by the state party and unless there is wholesale change of heart from the current leadership, I doubt if anything will change.

What advice would you give people just starting or thinking about running for the legislature?

If you are going to run as a Democrat, be prepared to be beholden to the unions and the Democrat machine money that comes from out of the state. The Democrat majority leadership will tell you how to vote and will not tolerate independent thinking, as their M.O. is to toe the party line unwaveringly. They are smart, highly organized and extremely well-funded. However, if you are going to run as a Republican, you need to be a very independent self-starter and know and understand going in that the state Republican Party cannot or will not help you. Also, know that the Democrat machine will get very personal rather than challenge any legitimate policy positions saying vile, ugly things about you and exploit any supposed weakness, whether it is true or not. Lastly, design a campaign plan, hire the very best talent you can afford, listen to their advice and be prepared to be surprised every day. The highs and lows on a daily basis are exhausting and exhilarating. You must believe in yourself, know where your moral compass points and never sway from that path. Win or lose, it is much easier to look at yourself in the mirror knowing you followed your beliefs.

What's next?

I consider being a Colorado state representative among some of the greatest honors of my life. I was retired when I became a representative and it is easy to fold back into retirement, however time will tell what is next.

Sen. Larry Crowder, R-Alamosa

Senate District 35, 16 counties in southeastern and south-central Colorado, including the San Luis Valley.

Years in the legislature: 8

Succeeded by: Sen.-elect Cleave Simpson, R-Alamosa

What made you want to run for the legislature to begin with?

I originally ran for this office due to the fact that as a fifth-generation resident of southern Colorado, I felt that not only could I make a difference but also felt that there would be a possibility to contribute to the betterment of my district.

Was it what you thought it'd be?

There were many surprises as I transitioned into this. I had a basic thought of what this job would entail and that is to set policy and the direction of the state. The one big misconception I had was the value of the lobbyist. I really do not believe we could do our job effectively had it not been for the information given us by the lobbyists. I realized early on that they were giving us one side and it is up to us to research the other side of an issue. But the basic information given to us as legislators by the lobbyists is a very valuable asset to all legislators as they are based on fact. The public certainly has a misconception of lobbyists.

What did you learn from the experience? If you had it to do over, what do you wish you'd known coming in that you know now?

I believe the biggest single thing that I learned is people have agendas on both sides of the aisle. I believe that differing views do not diminish their commitment to society. We may disagree but never question their dedication to causes that people believe in and with a passion. This goes also for the people whom we serve. The difference is that, in most cases outside of legislation, they mostly do not have all the information on whether an issue would be beneficial or detrimental to the masses.

What advice would you give people just starting or thinking about running for the legislature?

The best advice I could give someone running for office at this level is to always vote for your district. Obviously a person is sworn to an oath and duty-bound to protect the Constitution, but set aside your personal views to always vote your district even if it goes against your grain. Your personal views are secondary to what your district's needs are. At times you would need to go against your own caucus, but remember you were elected by your constituents and not your caucus.

What's next?

I’m not sure what is next. Currently there are not a lot of people knocking on my door to head their organization, but I will be working on veteran and agriculture issues. I believe the last eight years has been an opportunity and a definite honor to represent an area that I truly love — the high plains, where you can see forever — has been a great experience and honor. 

Sen. Mike Foote, D-Lafayette

Senate District 17, eastern Boulder County

Years in the legislature: 10, eight representing House District 12

Succeeded by: Sen.-elect Sonya Jaquez Lewis, D-Longmont

What made you want to run for the legislature to begin with?

I’ve been involved in public service since I graduated from college and running for the legislature was another way to do that. Plus, it was something new and interesting that gave me the ability to branch out and learn new areas of policy and new areas of law.

Was it what you thought it'd be?

I had been to the Capitol a grand total of two times before I got elected, so I don't think I had a great idea of what it was going to be. Certainly I had talked to a lot of people and got their ideas of what they thought it was, but I did not have a great conception of what it was going to be. I was eager to learn and eager to do good things, but I did not have a great idea of what the day-to-day was going to look like.

What did you learn from the experience? If you had it to do over, what do you wish you'd known coming in that you know now?

I wish I had had more policy expertise before becoming a legislator. I had good knowledge in a few areas, but I wish I had more expertise before being elected. Water policy and energy policy come to mind. There's a number of things you can learn on the fly, but you can only learn so much. Nobody knows everything about every topic, but I would’ve been much more comfortable if I had expertise in more areas. Of course, I never had a grand plan of becoming a legislator someday, so I did not foresee the need to do that kind of preparation, but looking back that’s just something I wish I had.

What advice would you give people just starting or thinking about running for the legislature?

You're definitely not going to be an expert in everything, but for those things you really want to work on I would say study up and know as much about it as possible going into your legislative career. It will help reduce the feeling of drinking from a fire hose, plus it will help establish your bona fides in those areas quickly. There are plenty of resources at the Capitol to draw upon to understand those issues better once you are elected, but there's nothing better than having a really solid background.

What did you learn about how to get things done?

Human nature is to keep things the way they are, so change can happen but not overnight. Big changes require a long-term view and patience, and even then getting 75% of what you want is a victory. I think the most successful legislators stand for their principles but also don’t deal in absolutes. The other thing is that most actions at the legislature have some kind of reaction. You have to consider what the opponents of your change will try to do to either stop it, mitigate it or overturn it. Completely winning a contentious issue may make you feel great in the short term, but it also could ultimately lead to blowback that could reverse that victory.

What's next?

I'm focused on my law practice right now. I'm helping nonprofits, community groups and environmental groups among others, focusing on energy, election law, land use and other state and local government matters. I've been very happy with the clients I have so far. It's a good way to continue to do good things, just in the private sector.

Sen. Owen Hill,
R-Colorado Springs

Senate District 10, eastern Colorado Springs

Years in the legislature: 8

Succeeded by: Sen.-elect Larry Liston

What made you want to become a legislator to begin with?

I just firmly believe the core of the American ideal that we’re independent people and we don’t need anybody like Owen Hill or anybody else in the legislature to figure things out for us. If society went to Hell in a handbasket and I had to rebuild it I would rebuild it with the average voter any day of the week rather than rebuild it with your average politician. I genuinely believe that. We don’t need the government to tell us who we can marry. I don’t think we need the government to tell me what things I can smoke and I don’t think we need the government to tell us where our kids can go to school. I don’t think the government should determine who’s qualified and not qualified for business licensure.

What have you learned from the experience?

I would have stayed off social media, No. 1. No question, I would have ignored it. I would have spent more time having a drink with a Democrat, more time having a smoke with (Sens.) Jack Tate or Larry Crowder. I would have spent more time just to focus on the relationship aspect of it rather than the self-promotion aspect of it.

What would you have done differently?

I don’t know. That’s a hard question. You do the best you can. Maybe it’s like asking somebody why they’re divorced from their spouse. Maybe I should have paid more attention to the other side.

What advice do you have for somebody thinking about running for legislature?

Understand our system has always thrived on two parties. That’s been the identity of American politics for this whole bit. Understand you have to play that game, but do not play the game (where) the other side is the Devil. They may be dumb as a box of rocks, don’t get me wrong. They may be economically illiterate but my experience up there was that most of the people I dealt with genuinely wanted to do right by the state of Colorado. The more we believe the other side is the Devil, then the end justifies the means, and we go around and around until it overtakes us.

Rep. Stephen Humphrey, R-Severance

House District 48, Weld County, including Greeley, Milliken, Eaton and Severance

Years in the legislature: 8

Succeeded by: Rep.-elect Tonya Van Beber, R-Eaton

Did not respond

Rep. Tracy Kraft-Tharp,
D-Arvada

House District 29, eastern Boulder County

Years in the legislature: 8

Succeeded by: Rep.-elect Lindsey Daugherty, D-Arvada

What made you want to run for the legislature to begin with?

To make a difference. I was involved in policy on the federal and state level and was approached by people suggesting I run for state rep.

Was it what you thought it'd be?

In many ways yes. In others, no.

What did you learn from the experience?

I’ve learned so much about our Colorado communities, our state programs, continuing needs of people, what we do well.

If you had it to do over, what do you wish you'd known coming in that you know now?

That eight years would go so fast!

What advice would you give people just starting or thinking about running for the legislature?

You can make a difference in many different ways. Running for office is an honor. Get to know your community, build relationships with people.

What's next?

Jefferson County commissioner, swearing-in Jan. 12 via Zoom.

Rep. Lois Landgraf

Rep. Lois Landgraf

Rep. Lois Landgraf,
R-Colorado Springs

House District 21, south side of Colorado Springs, including Fountain, Security-Widefield and Fort Carson

Years in the legislature: 8

Succeeded by: Rep.-elect Mary Bradfield, R-Colorado Springs

What made you want to run for the legislature to begin with?

I had been on city council and involved in the county GOP since 2004. After redistricting Rep. Bob Gardner was moved to a different district, as was Rep. Marcia Looper, leaving a vacancy in HD 21. Rep. Gardner asked me to run for what had been his seat.

Was it what you thought it'd be?

It was exactly what I expected. We lost the majority the night I was elected. I knew I wouldn’t be able to run and pass the legislation I had hoped to run. I always knew working with members of the opposite party was crucial to get anything done and realized this was now more important than ever. I knew the Democrats would be able to push through anything they wanted, and they have.

What did you learn from the experience?

You can get a lot done if you can compromise. I also realized that making friends on the other side was not only fun but it was invaluable when it came to passing my legislation or making changes in theirs.

If you had it to do over, what do you wish you'd known coming in that you know now?

I wish I had spent more time at the Capitol in advance of being sworn in so that I knew the system better, knew the lobbyists and had more confidence in my abilities.

What advice would you give people just starting or thinking about running for the legislature?

Realize that, to be successful, this is a more than full-time job. That the lobbyists and the press can be your friends, if you let them. That just voting NO on everything or running statement bills that never get passed is not helping your constituents. Even in the minority you can accomplish great things for Colorado. And remember — being a state representative is a great honor and a great responsibility. You are passing laws that we all have to live by. Take your job seriously. Acting like a child on the House floor is not an appropriate way to behave.

What's next?

I am actively looking for a job, probably in the policy area. I hope something turns up. I am also working on a permanent supportive housing project for Veterans in the Fountain Valley. And I run Friends for the Family, a 527 (nonprofit) dedicated to identifying and supporting traditional Republicans for office. We will be starting our campaign school this coming year. My most important task at this time is helping my grandson with online schooling.

Sen. Vicki Marble, R-Fort Collins

Senate District 23, parts of Broomfield, Larimer and Weld counties along the I-25 corridor.

Years in the legislature: 7

Succeeded by: Sen.-elect Barbara Kirkmeyer

Did not respond.

Rep. Jovan Melton,
D-Aurora

House District 41, part of Aurora

Years in the legislature: 8

Succeeded by: Rep.-elect Iman Jodeh, D-Aurora

What made you want to run for the legislature to begin with?

I first ran for the legislature because I saw a need for a diverse voice in the legislature. Before my election in 2012, I managed the campaigns for Angela Williams' and Rhonda Fields' state house campaigns in 2010. At that time, Terrance Carroll was the only African American in the legislature and was termed out of office. Although successful in their respective campaigns, it was glaring to me that African Americans were underrepresented in the legislature. With my own house seat opening up and given my previous state government experience from the lieutenant governor’s office, I decided to step forward to help bring more equitable representation.

Was it what you thought it'd be?

I had observed the legislature before I was elected and worked with many elected officials there. Being a representative, however, was more challenging at times when I first entered into office. I think the biggest surprise is how much you can get along with the opposite party and argue with your own. Some things I thought the Republicans would oppose, there was a lot of common ground that could be found. I learned that in many cases, different reasonings can still bring people to the same conclusion. At the same time, although I shared many of the same overarching values as many members of my own party, the degrees between being a progressive versus a moderate are greater than some realize.

What did you learn from the experience? If you had it to do over, what do you wish you'd known coming in that you know now?

I think the biggest thing is communication is key. So many times we make assumptions about people and their backgrounds. If I were to go in again or give advice to new members, I’d say don’t let first impressions define your colleagues or yourself. Until you know what someone is thinking or what their experience is, you never really know how they will vote, or even how to approach their opinion during debate. Many people thought I was very passionate, which I am about issues that I care about, but I also tried to be very technical in the rules. In many ways because people underestimated my knowledge of the rule book, I was able to get things through easier.

What advice would you give people just starting or thinking about running for the legislature?

For anyone thinking of running for the legislature or to those recently elected for the first time, understand that your title is more than your job. This isn’t a 9-5 position. When you are on the House floor, you're a representative. When you are in the grocery store, you are a representative. It can be exhausting at times, but use all of the experience you have and interactions you take part in to help be a voice for your constituents.

What's next?

I’ve been blessed with a great deal of public service experience that I don’t want to go to waste. I owe the investment this state has put in me to return to service in some kind of way, therefore I’m still planning on staying involved however I can. I am exploring several opportunities which could possibly include running for county commissioner in Arapahoe County in the future. At this time however, I am enjoying closing out this chapter of my life and helping my successor transition into her new role.

Rep. Lori Saine, R-Dacono

House District 63, central and northern Weld County, including Erie, Firestone, Frederick, Dacono, Briggsdale, Hudson, Fort Lupton, Lochbuie, Kersey, Keenesburg and Grover

Years in the legislature: 8

Succeeded by: Rep.-elect Dan Woog, R-Erie

What made you want to run for the legislature to begin with?

I was working with a group to call an Article V convention for the National Debt Relief Amendment, which states, "An increase in the federal debt requires approval from a majority of the legislatures of the several States."  Later I organized a meeting and introduced some folks to each other who became the authors of the Convention of States amendment and movement. In 2011, a group of Republicans in a Weld GOP meeting asked me to run for the state House but I knew the mayor in the neighboring town was running for the seat. He was in the room listening intently so to duck out, I said, “I’ll run if he doesn’t run.”  I figured I was off the hook because he just spent a lot of money on T-shirts.

Was it what you thought it'd be?

No. I think every new legislator has some idealized version of what will happen, a "Christmas Story" daydream of getting an A++++ and the swooning affirmative vote of the committee because you made a breakthrough argument to the other side on your bill. I have passed substantial legislation which includes DUI felony, adoption transparency, construction defects reform and pipeline safety, all laws that Coloradans waited for 10 years or more to get passed. But I didn’t do any of those heavy lifts my first year. 

What did you learn from the experience? If you had it to do over, what do you wish you'd known coming in that you know now?

I would be reading the Bible with more intention every day, especially the proverbs about seeking advice. The next primary source of information needs to come from your constituents. If you go to where they are, they will inform you of what they need.

It is essential to talk with your colleagues even if they don’t share the same letter behind their name, because your district issues can overlap theirs.  In those areas of agreement, you can bring others along to accomplish important things for your constituents and Colorado.

What advice would you give people just starting or thinking about running for the legislature?

I testified in committee on behalf of Weld County citizens before I became a legislator. I would start getting engaged early, attending committees, watching the long debates to see if this is what you are called to do. And it is a calling.  I’ve invited folks who felt they were due until they had to watch the process in person. Without the sanitization of TV and the political commentators' lens, the real-life version isn’t as shiny and aggrandizing. And it is hard work, some of the hardest you will ever do.

What's next? 

I look forward to serving folks as a Weld County commissioner and being a mom to my daughter, Alexandra. And I might get some kayaking in my schedule, bust some knuckles under truck hoods, watch some Hoosier basketball and try my hand at gardening. Although I suspect you will still see me at the Capitol every once and again since Colorado counties are pretty active with the legislative process.

Rep. Jonathan Singer, D-Longmont

House District 11, Longmont, Lyons, Niwot and Allenspark

Years in the legislature: 8

Succeeded by: Rep.-elect Karen McCormick, D-Longmont

What made you want to run for the legislature to begin with?

I was a caseworker serving families in poverty, as well as children at risk of abuse and neglect. I saw how rules of the game were often written by those with the least to lose. I wanted to lift up new voices that hadn't been heard at the seat of power.

Was it what you thought it'd be?

Yes and no. In my first week, the press asked me what I thought. I said at that time it was like a cross between "The West Wing" and "Gilmore Girls." People talk really fast. I also learned the press will put what you say on the front page of the newspaper. While things can get petty for the wrong reasons, most people most of the time are working their tails off for what they believe to be right. I might disagree with them, but we more often than not found unlikely bipartisan alliances on the causes we both cared about. I could never have imagined that I would get both Democrats and Republicans to support a measure to grant thousands of victims of the ‘drug war’ a pardon from the governor.

What did you learn from the experience? If you had it to do over, what do you wish you'd known coming in that you know now?

I wouldn't change much. With a handful of dedicated people, you can change the world. Our office passed 100 bills into law. We created the first tax on marijuana and dedicated hundreds of millions of those dollars to schools as well as mental health. We saved businesses from going under, ensured immigrants could obtain driver's licenses, and helped end wage theft. We even got a young constituent the lifesaving medical treatment she needed. There's a balance between campaigns, public policy and family. I know that my campaigns and family didn't get the attention they deserved. If we could end the disproportionate role of money in politics, our whole society would be better off (and I'd have more time for those important parts of life). My aides Susan, Mary and Caroline stuck with me on a tiny part-time state salary that made waiting tables seem like a King's ransom. I wish our legislature would pay them what they deserve.

What advice would you give people just starting or thinking about running for the legislature?

Listen to your community. It's OK to disagree, but try not to be disagreeable. Find ways to speak your truth that lifts people up without putting others down. Volunteer on boards, commissions and for political causes that you care about. Call your lawmaker up and ask to shadow them for an afternoon (in a socially distant manner until we recover from the pandemic). Be prepared for 100-hour weeks. But don't forget to find time for your family. They're the ones that sacrifice while you're serving. Don't do it if you're looking to raise your own profile; there are other ways to do that. Run because you believe in serving the common good. Find ways to embody the concept of a public servant.

What's next?

More time with family. Also hopefully a job that is fulfilling and allows me to afford a home in the community I love. Public service isn't about the title as much as it is about the people who you help. I became a social worker because I wanted to return a favor to those who helped me when I was struggling in my youth. I hope there is a job out there that lives up to that obligation.

Sen. Jack Tate, R-Centennial

Senate District 27, parts of Littleton, Greenwood Village and Centennial

Years in the legislature: 6

Succeeded by: Sen.-elect Chris Kolker, D-Centennial

What made you want to run for the legislature to begin with?

My sense at the time was that the legislature could use a strong pro-business and economic opportunity voice coming from experience.  In addition, I had been in grad school 20 years prior studying political science, and, as a result, I had a latent intellectual curiosity about the whole thing. I kind of ran as a trustee versus a delegate.

Was it what you thought it'd be?

Actually,  quite different.  The General Assembly is significantly more idiosyncratic than I would have guessed, with asymmetrical information confronting legislators at every turn. More significantly, I originally believed that the General Assembly would be a much more deliberative body than it really is most of the time. SB18-200 (PERA reform) and SB20-217 (law enforcement accountability) are more the exception than the rule.  At the beginning I did not really have an appreciation for the power of leadership to determine the outcome of potential legislation, versus all the cogent spreadsheets one might prepare to give the legislators in your first state affairs committee hearing.

What did you learn from the experience? If you had it to do over, what do you wish you'd known coming in that you know now?

My main takeaway is the appreciation I learned for all the different ways people work to make a living and achieve their goals. The economy is so amazingly broad that it can't help but impress someone coming from a single industry.  For me it was like the movie "The Wizard of Oz," after Dorothy crashes in her house from the tornado: the movie is still black and white until she opens the door at which point the full Technicolor is revealed.  Considering that and my accomplishments, it’s hard for me to look back and wish for anything different.  It was an honor to serve my constituents and the good people of the state of Colorado.

What advice would you give people just starting or thinking about running for the legislature? 

Decide what kind of legislator you want to be: highly political, policy-focused, mediator?  Make sure to align your personal brand with that goal.

What's next?

I have taken a sales and marketing management role with a large nonprofit organization in Tennessee that works in the economy opportunity space. Economic opportunity is a paradox for those desperately looking for it. It appears to be both everywhere and nowhere at the same time. I hope to be part of the solution.

Sen. Nancy Todd, D-Aurora

Senate District 38, southern Aurora

Years in the legislature: 16

Succeeded by: Sen.-elect Janet Buckner, D-Aurora

What made you want to run for the legislature to begin with?

As a 25-year veteran teacher, I was committed to supporting and enriching public education for all Colorado students.  

Was it what you thought it'd be?

The diversity of issues was certainly more than I expected. I was surprised by the amount of multitasking of people and issues I needed to juggle at the same time.  It reminded me of my teaching days! 

What did you learn from the experience? If you had it to do over, what do you wish you'd known coming in that you know now?

I learned about the needs of all people throughout Colorado, despite the diversity of the region/location. I wish I had known and understood the complexity of the tax system in Colorado and how it affects people, businesses and corporations better. Listening is more important than talking and recognizing the process is every bit as important as the issue sometimes. 

What advice would you give people just starting or thinking about running for the legislature?

Carry your bill, don’t marry it! Reach out to other lawmakers who represent other ideas and political views to broaden your own thinking and perspective. Get to know the person before you try to do policy! “Judge not, lest ye be judged.” Ask why it’s important to make a change, who benefits, who is harmed. Celebrate others' accomplishments. Get to know other legislators in the other chamber (and) the executive branch. Get both sides of an issue from different lobbyists.

Don’t take yourself too seriously that you’re the only one who can make a difference! Be a team member!!

What's next?

Stepping away from 16 years as a state legislator and 25 years as a public educator. I will enjoy spending quality time with my family and friends and pray for peace and goodwill for our state, nation & world! 

Rep. Jim Wilson, R-Salida

House District 60, Chaffee, Park, Custer and Fremont counties

Years in the legislature: 8

Succeeded by: Rep.-elect Ron Hanks, R-Penrose

What made you want to run for the legislature to begin with?

I was approached by my predecessor, Rep. Tom Massey, who asked if I would consider running.  At that point, the only person interested had been involved in a bar-room brawl – so, the “bar” was set pretty low.

I had never had any desire to be involved in politics, so Kristi and I prayed about my running.  God did not give us a sign to the contrary, so I declared my candidacy at the Lincoln Day Dinner in Fremont County.  The same night, two others declared they were running.  My competitive nature took over and the race was on – the rest is history!

Was it what you thought it'd be?

No one nor anything could ever prepare a novice for the experience of serving in the Colorado House of Representatives. Having served in the minority for my eight years, I gained a greater respect for what Custer experienced at Little Big Horn! I anticipated it would be the greatest experience of my professional life – and I was not disappointed! It was humbling to have had the honor and privilege to serve the people in HD 60 for these eight years.

What did you learn from the experience?

First and foremost, I learned not be too full of myself – the institution is much greater than any elected legislator. The only qualifications needed to be elected to the Colorado legislature is to be old enough and to get one more vote than your opponent – you need no other qualifications.  (That certainly explains some of the things that occur under the Golden Dome!)  Another thing I learned, being in the minority, was not to poke people in the eye on the other side of the aisle if you ever plan on getting any of your bills passed …

If you had it to do over, what do you wish you'd known coming in that you know now?

I wish I had realized that every legislator was just as “nearly normal” as I was – just trying to do what they felt was right for their district and the state of Colorado.  Once I realized that fact, I was able to accept what they were doing, even though I might not agree with their efforts.  I always tried to tell them, “This is America – you have the right to be wrong!”

What advice would you give people just starting or thinking about running for the legislature?

In addition to the aforementioned “do not be too full of yourself,” my advice would be pretty basic. You will be elected by a majority of the R’s or D’s in your district, but you represent every R, D or I – do not ever forget that fact!  Do the best job you can for everyone you serve.  Finally, you have to realize between campaigning and serving, you will lose a lot of time with your family – that lost time can never truly be recaptured.

What's next?

Since an elected official sacrifices a lot of family time and has to put other interests on hold, I plan to make up for lost time with Kristi, my kids and grandkids. (There are several “To Do” lists posted around the house …) And, being an avid hunter, there are a lot of hogs and turkeys that have lived a long life since I was at the Capitol. They had better be looking over their shoulders this coming spring!

Sen. Angela Williams, 
D-Denver

Senate District 33, eastern Denver County

Years in the legislature: 10, six years representing House District 7

Succeeded by: Sen.-elect James Coleman. D-Denver

What made you want to be a legislator?

To begin with, there was not a Democrat voice at the state Capitol for small business owners. I started testifying for small business owners at the Capitol before I decided to run for office, so that was one reason.

The second thing is that at the time that I ran, Speaker Terrance Carroll was termed out and we would have had not one African American voice at the state Capitol, and I could not just stand by and not allow our voices to be heard. But, also, to be a voice for people who don't often have a voice -- people struggling with mortgages, people who have challenges getting health care, people in the criminal justice system, just to be a voice for the voiceless. That's where I've always tried to be the strongest.

What did you learn from the experience?

No. 1, government and politics set the tone for our country and the people who we serve. Those we elect and put in office to represent the people of their respective states or our country really have to understand their constituents, what their needs are, what their value systems are and to represent those interests. You can get thrown off course very quickly, because legislating and politics move so quickly. You have to stay on top of your game and remember why you're there in the first place, to help people.

What advice would you give someone coming in or even thinking about running for legislature?

One, they have to first understand that this is a 24/7 commitment. That there are sacrifices that are made. It's true public service and it's not a very well-paying job. If you have a family and kids, whatever your financial situation, you have to take that into consideration, particularly for people of color and women. If you are a person of color with a family, you have to really think about this. One of the things I think is a misconception is that while the legislature in Colorado meets 120 days out of the year, you are on the job 365 days a year, 24 by 7, for $30,000 a year.

What do you think you accomplished?

Oh, gosh. This is something that meant a lot to me. Just on Friday, after 10 years of trying to pass a disparity report to determine if there are underutilized contracts not being awarded to minority-owned businesses, that report came out Friday. The report says exactly what I thought it would say: that our state is not doing a very good job at awarding procurement contracts to women, minorities, LGBTQ and people with disabilities.

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