Hickenlooper appoints a Kaiser executive as lieutenant governor

Colorado Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne

Gov. John Hickenlooper today named a Kaiser Permanente executive with a strong record of public and private sector service as his next Lieutenant Governor.

His choice, Donna Lynne, 62, was revealed Wednesday to a crowd of reporters, lawmakers and staff who braved the blizzard to hear the announcement.

She will have to be confirmed by both the Democratic-led House and the Republican-controlled Senate.

Lynne also will serve as the state’s Chief Operating Officer, a position that has sat vacant since Hickenlooper took office in 2011.

When asked if she was interested in running for governor in two years, Lynne firmly said “No!”

While she has never held elected office, Lynne worked for four New York City mayors – three Democrats and one Republican – and she also served as chair of the board of the Metro Denver Chamber of Commerce, whose president, Kelly Brough, served as Hickenlooper’s chief of staff while he was Denver’s mayor.

Though Lynne has bipartisan credentials, she has been generous to Democratic causes, with more than $80,000 in donations to various initiatives, as well as state and federal candidates, including President Obama. In the last two years, she’s donated $10,200 to the re-election campaign of Sen. Michael Bennet.

She has given only $500 total to two Republican candidates, according to the Federal Elections Commission database.

Among those at the Capitol cheering the nomination: Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, Speaker of the House Dickey Lee Hullinghorst of Boulder, House Majority Leader Crisanta Duran of Denver, and Senate Minority Leader Lucia Guzman, also of Denver.

Lynne is currently executive vice president of Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, Inc. and Kaiser Foundation Hospitals and group president responsible for the company’s Colorado, Pacific Northwest and Hawaii regions. She came to Colorado 11 years ago to join Kaiser,

Hickenlooper pointed to her lengthy record of service, starting in New York, where she worked on education and healthcare issues. Lynne has served on numerous boards including the Denver Public Schools Foundation, Denver Museum of Nature and Science and the Colorado Mountain Club.

She received a bachelor’s degree in economics and political science from the University of New Hampshire, a master’s degree in public administration from George Washington University and a doctorate in public health from Columbia University. She was named an Outstanding Woman of Business by the Denver Business Journal in 2008.

Her nomination was cheered by Jenny Willford, executive director of Emerge Colorado, which last November sent Hickenlooper a list of 101 women whom the organization felt should be considered for the job.

Lynne was not among the names on the list.

Nonetheless, Willford told The Colorado Independent today she was thrilled the governor chose a woman. “It sends a clear message that women’s leadership matters in Colorado.”

Related: 101 women Hickenlooper could appoint as lieutenant governor

Willford also noted by picking someone who isn’t a high-profile Democrat, Hickenlooper may dodge the difficulty of getting his appointment approved by the Republican-controlled Senate.

Hickenlooper spoke to that issue Wednesday, stating he had discussed Lynne’s nomination with Senate President Bill Cadman, the members of the Joint Budget Committee, and with Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg of Sterling. While Sonnenberg doesn’t chair the Senate State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee that could review Lynne’s nomination, he is an influential member of that group, and Hickenlooper was careful to note that Lynne has spent a lot of time on rural health issues.

Cadman, who did not attend the press conference, said in a statement today that as a longtime community leader and activist, Lynne “certainly would bring valuable experience and perspective to the job if confirmed. At a time when health care is such a significant focus of public concern for government, business and individuals, hopefully she’ll be just what the doctor ordered.”

has been a political journalist since 1998. She covered the state capitol for the Silver & Gold Record from 1998 to 2009 and for The Colorado Statesman in 2010-11 and 2013-14. Since 2010 she also has covered the General Assembly for newspapers in northeastern Colorado. She was recognized with awards from the Colorado Press Association for feature writing and informational graphics for her work with the Statesman in 2012.