House District 61 candidate Julie McCluskie talks education, affordable housing | SummitDaily.com

House District 61 candidate Julie McCluskie talks education, affordable housing

Julie McCluskie speaks to the Summit Daily News in Frisco on Thursday, April 19. McCluskie recently secured the Democratic nomination for House District 61.

In November, Dillon resident Julie McCluskie will be the Democratic party's candidate for Colorado House District 61, which includes Summit, Lake and Pitkin counties along with parts of Gunnison and Delta counties. McCluskie, who currently serves as the Summit County School District's director of communication, sat down with the Summit Daily to discuss her candidacy and how she plans to deal with some of the critical issues facing the district.

Summit Daily News: How have you been preparing for the election in November?

Julie McCluskie: Since June of last year, I've been trying to get to the communities across the district, and that's a lot of miles to cover. I've been meeting people, whether I'm hosting or participating in local events. My goal is to get to know the working people and families in our district's communities.

SDN: From your conversations, what have you found to be the issues the people of this district are more concerned about?

JM: In my travels over the past nine months, what I've found — it doesn't matter if you're from Summit, Lake, Pitkin, Gunnison or Delta — the biggest concerns are the same. It's about health care, housing, public education and the environment, those are the issues I hear the most concerns about. I don't think there's a simple straightforward solution for any of those problems, but there are more ways the state can support our local communities and find creative, innovative solutions to tackle them.

SDN: How do you plan to make an impact as only one of 65 members of the Colorado House?

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JM: One of the most important skills I can bring to this role is the ability to collaborate and problem-solve with people from a variety of backgrounds. While the Democrats hold the majority, force of will isn't (the) right way to govern on issues that matter to you. I believe good government is all about working with every stakeholder — regardless of background, regardless of party line — to get things done. I hope I can put that skill to use at the state Capitol and focus on this district.

SDN: Is there any part of our current Rep. Millie Hamner's legacy that you intend to carry on?

JM: Millie has been a strong champion of public education, and that is certainly where my experience and my passion lies. When I worked down at the state Capitol for former Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia, he was also executive director of the Colorado Department of Higher Education. He oversaw the education initiatives for the governor's office on everything from early child literacy to college completion. I really want to lend my voice, my time and my energy to doing more for the children and students of this state, and to make sure that Colorado does a better job of funding and supporting the many people who make things happen for our kids — our teachers, our principals, our school district, the administration. I'm excited to get to do that work down in the Capitol.

SDN: How does your work as the school district's communication director inform your potential work as a state legislator?

JM: I am so proud of the work we've done here with Summit schools. Our students consistently perform above state averages and assessments. We have done tremendous work around making all students feel included and safe in our schools, and I think it's my boots on the ground experience of working directly with the students, teachers and staff that informs me on my policy positions at the state level. I think it's one thing to advocate for policies for Colorado public education, when you're looking at it from a detached perspective, but when you know what it's really like seeing how a classroom functions, and when you have seen teachers work as hard as teachers do in Summit, you really know what you're fighting for. It's not just about looking at data and test results, it's about looking at kids' faces and know the policies we fight for in this state have to serve those kids and their families.

SDN: How do you plan to address the affordable-housing crisis here?

JM: I participated in Lake County's workforce housing listening tour, and it's clear there are challenges with inventory and affordability. I don't see a clear and simple answer to that question, yet. But I do think that there are ways the state can provide additional incentives for affordable workforce housing in our communities, especially smaller ones like Summit. I also think there's an opportunity to share the good ideas from one part of this district with another part of this district. I know, for example, Aspen is looking to create a tiny homes village for their seasonal employees. I think it's that cross-pollination of ideas that could help some of our community's housing issues.

SDN: How do you intend to approach environmental issues?

JM: I am strongly committed to doing whatever I can in this role to protect and preserve our spectacular mountain and Western Slope environments. I believe that because there's an absence of leadership at the national level that our state really does have that responsibility to step up and do everything we can at the state and local level.

I think it's also an opportunity for state leaders to give voice to the concerns, and make our public more aware of what they can do and how they can participate in maintaining the beauty of where we live, but also keeping it as a healthy primary economic driver around here. It's more than just loving where we live, but we also have to do everything we can to keep our communities viable.

SDN: Is there anything else you'd like to add about your platform and how you intend to represent the district?

JM: I want to emphasize that at this stage of this race, I'm working hard to go out and meet the people of this district. I don't know everything about every issue that we're facing, but I want to learn, and I want to be a trusted liaison for working people and families in the state Capitol. I want the people of this district to feel like they are well-represented by someone who cares about them, someone who listens and learns, and is ready to go down to Denver to do good stuff that makes a difference.