Ritter Makes First Cabinet Appointments

Governor-elect Bill Ritter announced his first cabinet appointments today, and both names will be familiar to Democrats.

Former congressman David Skaggs was appointed to head the Colorado Department of Higher Education, and former Denver Auditor Don Mares was tapped as executive director of the Department of Labor and Employment.

Skaggs is a longtime political figure in Colorado who flirted with running for the U.S. Senate in 1996 before retiring from elected office. Skaggs was briefly mentioned as a potential candidate for governor in 2005 before dismissing the idea. His appointment is a disappointment for two other prominent Democrats – Angie Paccione and Jared Polis – both of whom were believed to be seeking the position.

Mares is a seasoned Denver politico whose lifelong ambition had been to run for mayor, which he lost in 2003 to John Hickenlooper. Mares has strong ties to organized labor, which no doubt lobbied on his behalf for the position.

Click below for the full press release…

Gov.-elect Bill Ritter today announced his first two Cabinet appointees, giving shape to the top-level administration that will oversee Colorado state government and the departments that directly serve the public.

Ritter named former Congressman David Skaggs as executive director of the Department of Higher Education and the Colorado Commission on Higher Education, and former Denver Auditor Don Mares as executive director of the Department of Labor and Employment. Both require state Senate confirmation.

Ritter also named Michael Locatis as the state’s Chief Information Officer. Locatis will direct the Office of Information Technology and provide overall technology strategy direction for the state. He is currently the Chief Information Officer for the city and county of Denver.

“Colorado is blessed with some of the brightest, most energetic and innovative-minded people in the country,” Ritter said. “This trio is no exception. They will play key roles in helping to fulfill the Colorado Promise.”

“Rep. Skaggs distinguished himself as a thoughtful, engaging and forward-looking member of Congress,” Ritter added. “I know he will bring his passion for higher education to this new assignment. A thriving higher-education system is central to fulfilling the Colorado Promise, particularly for our families and rural communities.”

The Department of Higher Education is home to the Colorado Commission on Higher Education. The department oversees 28 public institutions of higher learning, two key loan programs and several artistic and cultural programs.

“Preparing Colorado’s young people to succeed in a global economy and an extremely competitive workforce is vital,” Skaggs said. “It’s central to every part of fulfilling the Colorado Promise. I look forward to doing everything possible to keep college affordable and accessible for all Coloradans and to help realize the full potential of Colorado’s extraordinary system of higher education.”

Ritter said he’s excited Mares will be the next executive director of the Department of Labor and Employment. “Don has demonstrated his commitment to serving the public in numerous capacities, and he has always done so with the utmost of professionalism,” Ritter said. “He will bring a wealth of experience to the Department of Labor and Employment. We’re fortunate to have him.”

The department provides key economic and workforce data to current and prospective employers. It assists injured or unemployed workers and ensures fair labor practices. It oversees the divisions of Labor, Employment & Training, Workers’ Compensation and Oil & Public Safety. 

“I look forward to engaging the labor and business communities so that together we can fulfill the Colorado Promise,” Mares said. “Working families and employers large and small are the engine that will drive Colorado forward and keep us competitive globally.”

Additional biographical information about Skaggs, Mares and Locatis:

Skaggs served as the 2nd Congressional District representative for 12 years (1987-99). Before that he served in the Colorado House from 1981-87, and was chief-of-staff to then-Congressman Timothy Wirth from 1974-77.

He is the founder and executive director of the Center for Democracy & Citizenship at the Council for Excellence in Government. The Center works to strengthen American democracy through several projects and activities, many of them school-based. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Wesleyan University in 1964 and his law degree from Yale Law School in 1967. Skaggs is a decorated Marine who served in Vietnam. He is of-counsel with the firm Hogan & Hartson.

Mares served as Denver’s auditor from 1995 to 2003 and in the state House and Senate from 1989 to 1995. He currently serves on the Colorado State Personnel Board, the leadership council for Escuela de Guadalupe and the board of the Latin American Educational Foundation.

Mares earned his bachelor’s degree in psychology from Stanford University in 1979 and his law degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1982. Since leaving office in 2003, he has been special counsel with Fleishman & Shapiro.

Locatis became Denver’s first Chief Information Officer in March 2004, where his office provides data network, telephone, application development, software support, and electronically delivered communication services to internal and external customers of the City and County of Denver government.

Before joining the city, he spent two years with Time Warner Inc. as Senior Director of Enterprise Technology Strategy. Previous employers include Texas Instruments, MobileForce Technologies and ConferTech International. He earned his bachelor’s degree in business from the University of Nebraska and his MBA from Colorado State University.

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Jason Bane

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