DENVER - In a move that could require legislative changes, Gov.-elect John Hickenlooper named incoming Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia on Monday to lead the Department of Higher Education.
The appointment makes Garcia the first Colorado lieutenant governor to also lead a state agency.
Garcia was president of Colorado State University-Pueblo before being elected. The football program there was resurrected under his tenure, and freshmen enrollment went up.
"Joe Garcia is in a unique position to wear two hats in state government. 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," Hickenlooper said.
Former GOP Gov. Bill Owens ran into constitutional issues when he was considering appointing Lt. Gov. Jane Norton to also head the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, a position she held previously before being tapped by Owens to be his running mate.
The duties of lieutenant governor are limited - one of the only duties is serving as chair of the Colorado Commission of Indian Affairs - but the duties are spelled out in the state Constitution and Cabinet positions are not included.
There were also questions about which job would take precedence, being lieutenant governor with little to do or running a major state agency, and there were salary questions.
"We believe it's allowed, but we are working with the leaders of the House and Senate and attorney general to clarify the existing law," said Hickenlooper's spokesman, Eric Brown.
GOP House Speaker-designee Frank McNulty said he supports efforts to give more duties to the lieutenant governor and said lawmakers could amend the statutes to allow it.
Also Monday, Hickenlooper appointed a prisons official from Missouri, Tom Clements, to lead the Department of Corrections.
Clements will replace Ari Zavaras, a former Denver police chief who led the Department of Corrections under two governors.
Colorado's prisons agency includes 20 adult prisons and about 6,700 employees.