Hickenlooper appoints Al White to run tourism office

Governor-elect John Hickenlooper today announced that State Sen. Al White will be director of the Colorado Tourism Office and Joan Henneberry will be the Healthcare Exchange planning grant project director.

White, from Winter Park, served eight years in the Colorado House of Representatives before he was elected to the Colorado Senate two years ago.

“Tourism can be a catalyst for economic development throughout Colorado,” White said in a press release.

He told The Colorado Independent by phone today that he hopes to convince the legislature to provide more funding for the tourism office.

“My first and most important job will be to find a stable funding source for the office so that we can begin to gain ground again,” he said.

He said that since the state stopped using a portion of sales taxes collected to fund tourism promotion, there has been no reliable source of funding for the office.

“Studies have shown that for every dollar a state spends promoting tourism, the state gets $6 back. If you truly understand that, it is silly not to fund tourism promotion. By diverting some money to the tourism office the state can actually grow the general fund,” White said.

Henneberry is now executive director of the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing and is responsible for managing public health insurance programs including Medicaid and CHP+. She will stay in her current role until a replacement is named, the press release said.

“Colorado is well positioned to implement federal health care reform that meets the needs of families throughout the state,” Henneberry said in a prepared statement. “We are committed to working with consumers and businesses to effectively and efficiently provide health care services that are both affordable and accountable.”

In her new role, Hickenlooper’s office said Henneberry will be responsible for continuing the planning phase for a health insurance exchange in Colorado as called for in the Affordable Care Act. This will involve setting up work groups and committees; working with the health reform director and implementation board; working to assess through economic modeling and analysis if Colorado can sustain a state exchange; and continuing to engage stakeholders, especially consumers and small businesses, to ensure that the Colorado exchange enables them to purchase affordable health insurance.

Some of these individuals and families will be eligible for federal subsidies to help them pay their insurance premiums.

Henneberry joined Gov. Bill Ritter’s cabinet as executive director of the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing in 2007. She previously worked in the private sector after spending seven years at the National Governors Association, providing consultation to states on health care services and financing, cost containment and emerging policy issues. She spent 13 years at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, chairs the board of the Colorado Regional Health Information Organization, and serves on the Executive Committee for the National Academy for State Health Policy.

Henneberry earned a master’s degree in management and completed the Senior Executives in State and Local Government program at the Harvard University Kennedy School of Government in 2008.

White was first elected in 2000 as state representative for House District 57, representing Garfield, Grand, Jackson, Moffat, Rio Blanco and Routt counties. He served four terms and during his tenure served as assistant majority leader and vice chair of the Business Affairs and Labor Committee. He was a member of the Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee, the Education Committee, the Water Resources Review Committee and the Legislative Audit Committee. White was the House appointee to the Colorado Tourism Office board for 10 years and was instrumental in securing funding for tourism promotion in Colorado.

White was elected to the Colorado Senate in 2008, representing District 8 (Eagle, Garfield, Jackson, Moffat, Rio Blanco and Routt counties). He currently serves on the Senate Appropriations Committee and he served on the Joint Budget Committee for four years.

White served in the Army before relocating to Colorado 35 years ago. He later moved to Winter Park and began a career as an entrepreneur in the ski business. He and his wife, Jean, spent 25 years as owners and operators of several ski shops, a bike shop and a mountain lodge.

White has served on several bank boards, was the chairman of the Fraser Valley Metropolitan Recreation District, secretary of the Grand County Water and Sanitation board, and vice chair of the Winter Park Fraser Valley Chamber of Commerce.

White will resign his Senate seat in the coming weeks; a date has not been set. A vacancy committee will name his replacement.

The Colorado Tourism Office was created by the legislature in 2000 to promote Colorado as a tourism and travel destination. The CTO replaced the Colorado Tourism Board and the Colorado Travel and Tourism Authority. The office is governed by a board of directors consisting of 15 members, including four legislators and 11 members appointed by the Governor and representing various tourism and travel industry segments. Administrative oversight is provided by the Office of Economic Development and International Trade.

Scot Kersgaard has been managing editor of a political newspaper, editor and co-owner of a ski town newspaper, executive editor of eight high-tech magazines (where he worked with current Apple CEO Tim Cook), deputy press secretary to a U.S. Senator, and an outdoors columnist at the Rocky Mountain News. He has an English degree from the University of Washington. He was awarded a fellowship to study internet journalism at the University of Maryland's Knight Center for Specialized Journalism. He was student body president in college. He spends his free time hiking and skiing.

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