Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia to head higher ed commission

Gov.-elect John Hickenlooper announced Monday that Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia will also serve as executive director of the Colorado Department of Higher Education.

“Joe Garcia is in a unique position to wear two hats in state government,” Hickenlooper said in a press release. “He is a known leader with tremendous expertise in education. He also understands the challenges facing higher education because he’s led a community college and a university. Allowing Garcia to serve in two roles will save money and serve the taxpayers of Colorado without compromising the work of the Lieutenant Governor’s Office or the Department of Higher Education. Joe will bring wisdom, experience and passion to the job.”

Garcia most recently worked as president of Colorado State University-Pueblo.

“Having Mr. Garcia serve in a dual role as Lt. Governor and Executive Director of CDHE is a very good idea. It wholly utilizes Mr. Garcia’s talents while establishing a direct and tight linkage between higher education and the Governor’s Office,” said former Republican Congressman Bob Schaffer, chairman of the Colorado State Board of Education. “The move clearly signals that higher education is a top state priority in an effective, efficient and economical way. I think it’s a great opportunity and I’m glad the governor-elect is taking advantage of this.”

He worked with local alumni and parents to raise private funds to bring back a football program that had been abandoned in 1984. The effort, coupled with several new student-oriented facilities to make the campus more attractive, contributed to a two-fold increase in freshman enrollment at the school.

“Higher education is critical to workforce development,” Garcia said. “I am committed to making sure that we are ready to retain, expand and attract jobs to Colorado with a well-educated workforce and we can’t achieve our goal of remaining competitive without high quality, affordable colleges and universities.”

Hickenlooper’s office said it is unclear whether legislation may be necessary for Garcia to hold both posts. Hickenlooper said he is working with leaders in the General Assembly and the Attorney General to clarify that the Lieutenant Governor can concurrently serve in a Cabinet position if appointed and confirmed by the Senate.

Before he worked at CSU-Pueblo, Garcia was president of the second-largest community college in Colorado, Pike’s Peak Community College. There, he oversaw three campuses that serve more than 16,000 students annually. He earlier worked for the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies as the Executive Director. In this capacity, he managed and maintained budgetary responsibility for such Colorado divisions as Banking, Financial Services, Real Estate, Insurance, Civil Rights, Securities, and Public Utilities Commission. Garcia was appointed by former Gov. Roy Romer.

“When Joe Garcia was announced as the candidate for Lieutenant Governor, I knew that he would also be the ideal choice to be the Executive Director for the Department of Higher Education,” said CU President Bruce Benson. “He has experience running campuses and he knows the challenges we face as our enrollments continue to grow while state funding has not kept pace.”

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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