Earlier this month, Summit County Commissioner Dan Gibbs announced his campaign for re-election, citing his passion for the mountain community he calls home.
But Gibbs admitted that his love for Summit County and his desire to protect all of its resources — natural, recreational, professional and educational — took on new importance recently when he discovered he would soon be a father. Gibbs and his wife, Johanna, are expecting their first child, a daughter, in April.
“I feel blessed to live in Summit County and I want to ensure future generations have the same opportunities to hike, ski and enjoy the outdoors,” Gibbs said. “I feel like I have always thought about future generations, but now more so than ever with the girl on the way.”
Gibbs, 38, a Democrat, graduated from Western State Colorado University in Gunnison before entering the political arena. His first job out of college was with Mark Udall, who was then a Colorado Congressman.
Gibbs spent six years working in Udall’s camp, splitting his time between Washington D.C. and managing one of Udall’s regional offices in Minturn, before launching in 2006 his own campaign for political office. Gibbs ran for the Colorado House of Representatives and won, serving for a year as vice chairperson of the Colorado House Transportation Committee and as a member of the House Agriculture Committee. In 2007, he was appointed to the Colorado Senate to fill a vacancy left by Joan Fitzgerald, who decided to run for Congress.
Gibbs remained in the Colorado Senate until 2010, winning his bid for re-election in 2008, and serving during that time as chairperson of the Senate Transportation Committee and as a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee.
He also carried and passed legislation focused on transportation and education issues. Among his notable victories were the Slow Poke and Chain Law bills aimed at improving safety and efficient travel on Interstate 70, as well as legislation allowing Colorado Mountain College to offer bachelor’s degree-level courses.
But forest health issues have always been near and dear to Gibbs’ heart. While serving in the state legislature in Denver, Gibbs enrolled in wildland firefighter certification training and continues to be an on-call wildland firefighter. Borrowing from his experiences in the field, Gibbs carried and passed the Colorado Forest Restoration Act.
All of the legislation he either carried or supported were locally driven, Gibbs said, and after two terms in Denver Gibbs decided to turn his attention to local government. In 2010 he decided to run for Summit County Commissioner, where he said politics are not as partisan as they are at the state and federal levels.
“At the state level, it’s much more about whether you are a Republican or a Democrat and winning and losing, rather than making decisions that are good for Colorado,” Gibbs said. “The more dysfunctional things get at the federal and state levels, the more people seem to come together at the local level to accomplish goals that are important to communities.”
That’s why all of Summit County’s incumbent candidates decided to announce their re-election campaigns, regardless of party affiliation, on the same day, Gibbs said.
“We may have our differences from time-to-time, but we’re all here for the same reason — we want Summit County to be the best place to live, to work, to raise a family, to educate your children,” Gibbs said. “We wanted to show the community we’re a team.”
Looking ahead, Gibbs said he plans to focus his attention on the issues he thinks are most important to Summit County residents, such as open spaces for recreation and creating a strong business climate, a reliable transportation system and a productive school system.
He also plans to continue to look for partnerships to tackle projects important not only to Summit County, but also to its neighbors throughout the region.
“I really have a passion for looking for opportunities to partner with local organizations, neighboring counties, the state and federal governments to get projects done,” Gibbs said. “At the end of the day it’s cheaper for the taxpayers and is more efficient government.”