House District 61 incumbent Millie Hamner puts education first in her campaign | SummitDaily.com

House District 61 incumbent Millie Hamner puts education first in her campaign

Democratic incumbent Millie Hamner is in the running for her fourth and final term in House District 61. She is running against Republican candidate Robert Schutt.

Millie Hamner is fighting for a final term in House District 61, hoping to finish her tenure with a push for education and health reform.

Hamner, the Democratic incumbent, is running against political newcomer Robert Schutt, a Republican from Crested Butte.

Hamner, a Dillon resident, has held the seat in the house since 2011, when she took over for Christine Scanlan, who left to join Gov. John Hickenlooper's administration.

"I was up for the challenge, and people thought I could do it, and I always thought I'd regret it if I didn't," Hamner said. "I just couldn't miss this opportunity."

When Hamner first came into office, she took over District 56, which included Lake, Summit, and Eagle counties. But during the 2013 session, a U.S. Census triggered a shake-up to the district footprint and name. Today, District 61 includes both Summit and Lake counties, as well as Pitkin County and parts of Gunnison and Delta counties.

During her five years in office Hamner has served on several committees. Most recently, she was the chair of the joint budget committee and vice chair of appropriations. She has also served as chair of the education committee.

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"Because my background is in education I get brought into, or am asked to be involved in, just about any education issue," Hamner said.

Before entering politics, Hamner was the superintendent of the Summit School District, a position she started in 2004. Before that she was the assistant superintendent for three years. Prior to coming to Summit County she was a teacher and administrator in Eagle County for 23 years. She went to college in Cleveland, Ohio, where her father was also a teacher and eventually a principal. She taught in Cleveland for a brief time before coming to Colorado.

"I drove to Colorado without a destination and without a job. So it was pretty risk-taking at that time, but (I) ended up in Vail," she said.

She graduated in 1996 from the University of Denver with a Ph.D. in curriculum and leadership. From there she worked with Adams University and DU as an adjunct professor to help create programing for future teachers in the state. She said that she frequently helped build programs for students in addition to teaching classes.

She said her professional background has helped her be the voice of change for education at the Capitol. She has sponsored several bills that aimed to help better fund education. She is particularly interested in the results on measures 3A and 3B on the Summit County ballot, which call for an increase in school funding. She said that this is particularly important because the district has not asked the community for funding since 2010. One measure addresses building improvements, while the other is a property tax that would go toward funding construction, maintenance and technology costs.

As for being re-elected, Hamner is hoping to finish her final term by continuing her work on education reform. She said that she is already reaching out to legislators from both parties on some issues.

"We see this as an incredible opportunity to engage the citizens of Colorado and our educators (and) our taxpayers in a deeper conversation of where do we see public education going in this state and how can we support that," she said.

In addition, Hamner wants to continue working on the budget, transportation and health care issues. She said that health care on the Western Slope often costs individual residents four times as much as the same coverage for someone in Denver. She is currently part of a state task force looking at that issue.

Hamner said that campaigning while still holding the seat can be a challenge. She said that her husband has been an incredible support system because he will frequently drive her to different events so that she can work in the car. Hamner will be campaigning throughout the district in the coming weeks. Both she and Schutt will attend the candidates forum from 5:30-8:30 p.m. on Oct. 5 at the Colorado Mountain College auditorium in Breckenridge (107 Denison Placer Road). The Summit Daily News, the Summit Association of Realtors and the Summit County Builders Association are cosponsoring the event, which is open to the public and will feature candidates from several races, including Summit County commissioner, districts two and three, sheriff, district attorney, State House District 61 and State Senate District 8. The event will also present both sides on ballot initiatives such as Summit School District funding, a sales tax for workforce housing construction, ColoradoCare (Amendment 69) and Raise the Bar (Amendment 71).