Gibbs looks ahead to the Senate | SummitDaily.com

Gibbs looks ahead to the Senate

NICOLE FORMOSA
summit daily news
Summit County, CO Colorado

Summit Daily/Mark Fox

Summit County, CO Colorado

SUMMIT COUNTY ” Dan Gibbs has his work cut out for him over the next month-and-a-half as he prepares to return to the state Capitol as a member of the Senate instead of the House of Representatives.

“I need to introduce myself to a lot of people in the new district, which includes six counties, set up town hall meetings and try to knock on as many doors as possible before the legislative session starts so I have a good idea what folks want me to look into,” Gibbs said Tuesday morning.

On Monday night, the Democratic Senate District 16 Vacancy Committee appointed Gibbs, of Silverthorne, to the Senate seat vacated last week by Joan Fitz-Gerald so she could concentrate on campaigning for U.S. Congress.

Gibbs, who was elected to House District 56, covering Summit, Eagle and Lake counties, last year will now represent Summit, Clear Creek, Grand, Gilpin and parts of Jefferson and Boulder counties as a state senator.

Although he’s venturing into new territory, it won’t all be unfamiliar.

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As director of U.S. Rep. Mark Udall’s Western Slope office before his election to the Colorado House, Gibbs covered Gilpin, Summit, Grand and Clear Creek counties and worked on issues like transportation in Jefferson and Boulder counties.

“I’m not walking in not knowing any folks within those communities ” I know a few, but I still have a lot of work to do,” he said.

Aside from the challenges of representing a larger district, Gibbs will also need to start campaigning almost immediately because he must run next November to retain his Senate seat.

Even though he served just one year in the House, Gibbs said he couldn’t pass up the opportunity to seek the Senate seat, where he felt he could be a stronger voice for Summit County and his entire district.

With only 35 members in the Senate compared with 65 in the House, the committee sizes are smaller, which means there are fewer colleagues to convince to push his bills through.

Gibbs made a name for himself in the House by sponsoring ” and not giving up on ” bills covering controversial and difficult subjects, such as one to increase the penalties for truckers who violate the chain law and another that holds the oil and gas industry responsible for minimizing adverse impacts on the environment from drilling.

Working with Fitz-Gerald, he also managed to secure state funds for the first time ever, to the tune of $1 million, dedicated to tackling forest health in light of the pine beetle epidemic.

On that topic, Gibbs said he plans to pick up where he left off. He will reintroduce his forest health bill this legislative session to try to secure more money for the issue. He hasn’t finalized the other four bills he will sponsor in the session.

Sandy Briggs, chair of the local Democratic party, said he doesn’t think Gibbs’ appointment to a larger district means the momentum will be slowed in Summit County because the mountain communities share many common issues with the Front Range, such as water, transportation and education.

“He’ll be feeling the pulse of a different constituency for sure, but I think it’ll probably raise consciousness of the Front Range to the High Country and the High Country to the Front Range. We’re all in this together,” Briggs said.

Briggs said the local impact will come down to whomever is selected to fill Gibbs’ House seat and his or her ability to work in tandem with Gibbs to bring mountain issues to the Capitol.

Gibbs will likely officially vacate his House seat in early December, Briggs said. From that date, the House District 56 Vacancy Committee will have 10 days to pick his successor.

As of Tuesday, two Summit County locals had submitted letters of intent to the committee chair, Dr. Flo Raitano, to be considered for the position ” Silverthorne Town Councilmember Rosanne Shaw and Emily Tracy, who chairs the legislative affairs committee for the Summit Chamber of Commerce.

Vail attorney Rohn Robbins also expressed interest in the seat, Briggs said.

The committee is looking for applicants with policy and political experience who understand that “this is not a gimme seat,” Raitano said. Whoever is appointed to the House will need to run for election next November to keep the seat.

People interested in applying, can e-mail a letter of interest and qualifications to Dr. Flo Raitano at fraitano@earthlink.net, or send to P.O. Box 5, Dillon, CO 80435.