Gov.-elect Jared Polis on Friday unveiled his first batch of a dozen Cabinet picks, tapping several former lawmakers and federal government officials.
Polis also will keep a couple of Cabinet members from the Hickenlooper administration.
Polis’ first dozen picks are split 50/50 among men and women, and four of the picks are minorities: three Hispanics and one African-American.
New to the Colorado executive branch:
Former U.S. Rep. Betsy Markey, who will lead the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade. Markey represented eastern Colorado’s 4th Congressional District from 2009 to 2011. After she lost to Republican Cory Gardner, who later became a U.S. senator, Markey founded the Northern Colorado Democratic Business Coalition. She also ran for state treasurer in 2014, losing to incumbent Walker Stapleton.
She served two years as assistant secretary for intergovernmental affairs for the Department of Homeland Security and just under a year as regional administrator for the U.S. Small Business Administration, both jobs as part of the Obama administration.
Former state Rep. Angie Paccione will take the helm of the Department of Higher Education.
This Cabinet position is the only one with job qualifications set forth in statute (CRS 23-1-110), which states that the executive director shall be “qualified by substantial training and experience in the field of higher education.”
This isn’t just a college degree; the expectation that came from the statute’s origins has been that the executive director hold administrative experience in higher education, useful when navigating the state’s 26 public colleges and universities and their governing boards. Few governors in the past two decades have followed that statute; Gov. John Hickenlooper was the first since Gov. Roy Romer to pick someone (Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia, who now is president of the state’s community college system) who had anything other than a college degree and/or limited experience in the classroom.
Paccione holds a doctorate in education and human resource studies from Colorado State University. According to her LinkedIn profile, she does not have administrative experience in higher education, although she was an assistant professor at CSU for five years.
Paccione served in the Colorado House, representing District 53, from 2002 to 2006. She unsuccessfully ran for Congress in 2006. Paccione currently is a senior director of client partnerships for Verus Global, which provides leadership training.
Former Denver City Council member Rick Garcia will lead the Department of Local Affairs. He most recently served in the Obama administration as the regional administrator for the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development, Rocky Mountain West Region and also was a senior adviser to HUD on community sustainability and resiliency.
Shoshana Lew will be executive director of the Colorado Department of Transportation. She previously served in the Obama administration as chief financial officer and assistant secretary for budget and programs at the U.S. Department of Transportation. She also served in the U.S. Department of the Interior and in the Office of Management and Budget. Lew is currently the chief operating officer at the Rhode Island Department of Transportation.
Dean Williams will head the Department of Corrections, coming to Colorado from Alaska, where he was commissioner of corrections and worked more than 30 years in the state’s justice system. He is a graduate of the Anchorage Police Academy.
The new executive director of the Department of Labor and Employment is Joe Barela, who has more than 25 years experience in workforce management, including as workforce director for the Arapahoe/Douglas Works! Workforce Center. He currently is a manager with the Markle Foundation program Skillful, which helps connect workers to middle-class jobs.
Former Boulder Mayor Will Toor will lead the Colorado Energy Office. Toor is currently a senior staff member at the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project working on clean energy across six southwestern states. Toor has served on the Colorado Air Quality Control Commission, Governor’s Climate Action Panel and Boulder County Consortium of Cities Energy Strategy Taskforce.
Among the Cabinet members who will transition from the Hickenlooper to Polis administration:
Stan Hilkey, the current executive director of the Department of Public Safety, will continue in that position.
Patty Salazar will lead the Department of Regulatory Agencies. She is currently DORA’s deputy executive director and commissioner of both the banking and financial services divisions.
The Division of Insurance is likely to be a focal point in the next administration, and Polis has chosen its current interim commissioner, Michael Conway, to step into the role permanently.
Kim Bimestefer will continue as executive director in Health Care Policy & Financing.
Not yet announced: Who will lead the departments of natural resources (which oversees water, forestry, mining, oil and gas and parks), information technology, revenue, personnel, military affairs, public health and environment, and human services.