Salazar named commisioner of agriculture, King to continue at DNR

Governor-elect John Hickenlooper announced today U.S. Rep. John Salazar will be Commissioner of Agriculture.

A sixth-generation farmer and rancher, Salazar served three terms representing Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District and was a member of the House Agriculture Committee. Before his time in Congress, Salazar served in the Colorado General Assembly for two years. He recently hinted that he may challenge Rep. Scott Tipton when the seat comes up again in 2012, but he told The Colorado Indpendent today that he has committed to four years in the Hickenlooper administration.

“I have given John my commitment to be agriculture commissioner for four years,” Salazar said.

“I’ve always had an interest in, and have always been involved with, agriculture. I think I am well qualified for the position,” he said.

Salazar said agriculture is the second largest business in Colorado. “I want to serve the agricultural community of Colorado.”

He said he had been on the “short list” for secretary of agriculture under President Obama and also served on agriculture committees in both the state legislature and the U.S. House of Representatives.

As to his recent defeat, he said, “It was just the tides. I gave it my heart and soul but it just wasn’t in the cards. I walk away with my head held high.”

He said he would work out of a Denver office but hopes to establish a satellite office closer to home in the San Luis Valley.

Hickenlooper made several other appointments today, including naming current agriculture commissioner John Stulp a special advisor on water. Dr. Chris Urbina was named executive director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. Hickenlooper also said Mike King will remain director of the Department of Natural Resources.

“A thriving agriculture sector is critical to Colorado’s economic recovery,” Hickenlooper said in a press release. “Farmers and ranchers are also leading the way as business innovators. Their prosperity helps build a foundation for all of Colorado. And no one has been a more passionate champion for agriculture and rural communities than John Salazar. We are fortunate to have his leadership at the helm of the Department of Agriculture.”

Salazar’s work in Congress earned him recognition for outstanding service by the American Farm Bureau and the Golden Triangle Award from the National Farmers Union. He played a key role in passing the historic farm bill of 2008.

“I look forward to working with Gov.-elect Hickenlooper and serving the people of Colorado as the Commissioner of Agriculture for the next four years,” Salazar said in the press release. “I am excited about the great possibilities of expanding our energy opportunities along with marketing value-added products and promoting the second-largest economy in Colorado.”

Salazar was raised on a San Luis Valley farm, where he and his five siblings shared a bedroom and had no electricity or running water. He has served on the Rio Grande Water Conservation District, the Colorado Agricultural Leadership Forum and the Colorado Agricultural Commission before being elected as a state Representative in 2002.

He was one of only a handful of active farmers in Congress after he was first elected in 2004. A veteran, Salazar served on the House Veterans Affairs Committee, and was a member of the fiscally conservative Democratic Blue Dog congressional coalition.

Salazar earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Adams State College after serving three years in the U.S. Army.

“I thought John Stulp did a great job at Agriculture,” said Rep. Randy Baumgardner, R-Hot Sulphur Springs. “I don’t really know John Salazar but I think he will do a good job as well and the vision will continue as it was.”

John Stulp, the outgoing Colorado Commissioner of Agriculture, will serve Hickenlooper as a water advisor and will chair the Interbasin Compact Committee.

“John Stulp’s service to Colorado’s ranchers, farmers and universities is remarkable,” Hickenlooper said. “And a cornerstone of that service is his deep understanding of our water resources and the need to manage them carefully and effectively. Most importantly, John understands an age-old truth in the West: whiskey is for drinking and water is for fighting. John’s task will be to replace the fighting with collaboration.”

“I am excited to be a part of the Hickenlooper team,” Stulp said. “Water has always been a critical part of Colorado’s quality of life. From food production to community development, to recreation, the environment, or how we create new jobs, Colorado’s water resources are an important piece of our future. Governor-elect Hickenlooper’s emphasis on water and how we manage this limited resource speaks volumes, and I welcome this opportunity to be a part of Colorado’s water future.”

Stulp is on the board of directors of the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA), which works to develop and implement public policy and programs to support and promote the American agricultural industry, while protecting consumers and the environment. He is also the President of a subset of NASDA, the Western Association of State Departments of Agriculture.

A member of the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union since 1975, Stulp is a proponent of building wind farms in rural Colorado. Stulp’s family farming operation is home to the Lamar Light and Power Wind Farm, and Stulp is a principal in Prairie Wind Energy LLC.

Stulp served as a Prowers County commissioner from 1991 until 2005. He also served on numerous other boards and commissions, including the State Board of Agriculture (1986 to 1995), state Wildlife Commission (1995-99), the Connect Colorado technology committee (1996), the State Land Board (1997-2005), and the Colorado Ag Development Authority & Value Added Board (2005-06).

He earned a bachelor’s degree in veterinary science and a doctor of veterinary medicine, both from Colorado State University.

Mike King will remain executive director of the Department of Natural Resources, a position he assumed in May, 2010, after serving as deputy director for more than three years.

“Striking the right balance between resource development and conservation is what good stewardship of our natural resources is all about. Mike King has the collaborative skills needed to bring disparate interests together to responsibly manage these resources,” Hickenlooper said.

King, a native of Montrose, became the assistant director for Lands, Minerals and Energy Policy in January 2006 and was appointed as deputy director at the Department of Natural Resources in September 2006.

He previously worked in the Policy and Regulation Section at the Colorado Division of Wildlife in various capacities for six years and was an Assistant Attorney General from 1993 to 1999.

“As a native Coloradan I have a deep respect for everything that makes our state great,” King said. “From the Western Slope to the Eastern Plains, Colorado is a land with incredible vistas. I am honored at this appointment and look forward to fulfilling Governor-elect Hickenlooper’s promise to responsibly balance conservation and development of our natural resources.”

King, who lives in Parker, earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Colorado, a law degree from the University of Denver and a master’s degree in Public Administration from the University of Colorado at Denver Graduate School of Public Affairs.

“Mike King is an exceptional choice to continue to lead Colorado’s Department of Natural Resources,” said Pam Kiely, program director for Environment Colorado. “With the management of our state’s natural resources one of the most vital roles, it is a smart decision to keep putting Mike’s talent and experience to good use for Colorado.

“Mike is a proven leader, with a track record of success tackling some of the state’s toughest issues over his lengthy tenure at DNR. From helping manage a landmark process to balance strong protection of our land, water, wildlife and public health with traditional resource extraction, to overseeing the creation of critical uranium regulations to protect groundwater from toxic pollution, Mike has made profound progress for our environment while earning the respect and trust of stakeholders across the board,” Kiely said via email.

Dr. Chris Urbina was named executive director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

Urbina, a native of Pueblo, is now the director of Denver Public Health at Denver Health. In his new role, Urbina will also serve as the state’s Chief Medical Officer.

“Dr. Urbina is uniquely qualified to oversee all aspects of the Department of Public Health and Environment,” Hickenlooper said. “He is a physician and public health expert who knows Colorado and knows how to build consensus on complicated issues. Chris also has extensive experience finding community-based solutions that involve the environment, systems and policy changes. He will serve our state well.”

Urbina has worked for Denver Public Health since 2004. He is the Co-chair of the statewide initiative known as the Colorado Public Health Improvement Plan-From Act to Action. The plan sets the course for the creation of a cohesive public health system in Colorado, engaging rural and urban local public health agencies and the state Department of Public Health and Environment to create a more uniform and effective service model and to use resources efficiently.

“I am honored to be selected by the Hickenlooper-Garcia team to head the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment,” Urbina said. “Our state and local public health and environmental professionals have a long tradition of creating the opportunity for every Coloradan to be healthy and to protect the natural beauty and environment of our great state. I look forward to working with our leadership, organizations and communities around the state.”

Urbina continues to teach introductory public health courses at the Colorado School of Public Health and at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. He is the current president of the Colorado Public Health Association and serves as a board member for the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in Denver Metro, the Denver Foundation and at Clinica Tepeyac, in addition to being involved in numerous other local health organizations.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from Stanford University and a medical degree from the University of Colorado School of Medicine. He completed a family practice residency at the University of New Mexico and earned a master’s degree in public health from Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health. Urbina is board certified in Family Medicine and Preventive Medicine.

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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