Isgar creates Senate vacancy with appointment to USDA rural post

State Sen. Jim Isgar at the Capitol. Isgar is stepping down to take a Department of Agriculture post. (Photo/jimisgar.org)

State Sen. Jim Isgar at the Capitol. Isgar is stepping down to take a Department of Agriculture post. (Photo/jimisgar.org)

Term-limited state Sen. Jim Isgar won appointment as the U.S. Department of Agriculture state director of rural development, Mile High Politics first reported Tuesday morning. The Hesperus Democrat, whose Senate District 6 covers eight counties in the southwest corner of Colorado, plans to step down in about three weeks, he told Jeremy Pelzer, creating the need for a vacancy committee to fill the final year of his term.

“After many years working for Colorado, I’m excited at the opportunity to continue that work at the U.S. Department of Agriculture,” Isgar said in a statement. “As a resident of a rural area these issues touch me very deeply. I’m happy that I will be able to continue to work for Colorado, rebuild and revitalize our rural economy, and improve the lives of every American every day. I want to maintain the vitality of rural America– that’s where the strength of this country has always been and that’s where our strength will continue to be.”

Known around the Capitol as the Legislature’s foremost authority on water issues, Isgar chairs the Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee and the Permanent Legislative Water Review Committee. He works as a rancher.

Isgar has made no secret of his desire for a federal job. During the legislative session, he told the Durango Herald he had applied for a job with the Obama administration and was rumored to be seeking the USDA regional director spot.

It will be the fourth vacancy in the 35-member state Senate since the 2008 election. Republican Steve Johnson stepped down after winning election as a Larimer County commissioner, followed by the mid-term departures of state Sen. Jennifer Veiga and Senate President Peter Groff, both Denver Democrats. Two House members have resigned and had their seats filled by vacancy committees this year.

State Rep. Ellen Roberts, a Durango Republican, announced earlier this month she plans to run for Isgar’s seat next year. The district vacancy committee will appoint a Democrat, who will have a leg up running for what would have been an open seat.

The USDA state rural development office has its headquarters in Lakewood and has six offices spread across the state, in Alamosa, Cortez, Craig, Delta, Las Animas and Wray. The office distributes federal grants and administers programs throughout rural Colorado. Nationwide, the office has runs more than $114 billion in loans and loan guarantees, according to a USDA release.

Recently installed Senate President Brandon Shaffer, a Longmont Democrat, sang Isgar’s praises in a statement.

“I’m so proud of Senator Isgar and his new position in the Department of Agriculture,” Shaffer said. “With the loss of Senator Isgar we are losing a great mind, a wonderful representative of the people, and an expert in many areas of state government, including water issues. While we are happy for his new endeavors, he will be greatly missed in the Senate.”

Isgar was appointed to the SD 6 seat in 2001 when incumbent Jim Dyer, also a Democrat, resigned to take a seat on the Colorado Public Utilities Commission. Isgar won re-election to his second full, four-year term in 2006 with 60 percent of the vote.

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Ernest Luning

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