Russell George’s retirement from state government service lasted 12 days. He lost his job as the executive director of the Department of Natural Resources when Gov. Ritter was sworn in January 9th. On Saturday, George was “re-hired” as chief of the Colorado Department of Transportation.
However, don’t send your list of the ten worst potholes to him yet.First, Ritter and George want to conduct transportation summits across Colorado to get public input. “We also want to see what other states are doing,” George said. “Then we want to look at 50 years out in our transportation needs.”
In a state crisscrossed by major interstate highways, high mountain passes, expanding city highways, few railroad routes and a mix of major and rural airports, Russell George has a huge task and not enough money. Plus, he lacks the technical background in transportation.
“What I do know about is how state agencies and local governments work together,” George explained. “I understand budget hardships and how the budget process works-I started my legislative career with TABOR.” He continued, “I’ve nurtured and directed two state agencies now; I’m familiar about how the system works and the laws and I can make executive decisions.”
The expertise will come from CDOT staff George noted. “I will listen to the people in the department about the technical side, but the buck will still stop at my desk.”
Yet, Russell George does have some practical experience in some of the transportation challenges facing Colorado. He has been commuting on I-70 between his home in Rifle and his work in Denver for 14 years.
“Since I try to go home every weekend, I am quite intimate with every mile,” George admitted.
And how many commuter miles has Russell George driven? “I’m on my third trip to the moon and back.”
Photo: Russell George, nominated to lead CDOT and First Lady, Jennie Ritter briefly chat at an inaugural celebration in Rifle. By Leslie Robinson