Buescher tabbed for secretary of state

Gov. Bill Ritter’s appointment Friday of state Rep. Bernie Buescher, D-Grand Junction, as secretary of state was hailed by lawmakers, elections officials and observers as a move that will boost the Western Slope’s standing in state government.

Buescher, who lost his bid for a second term to represent House District 55 to Collbran Republican Laura Bradford last month, will succeed Republican Mike Coffman. Coffman is leaving midway through his four-year term after being elected to Congress to replace Tom Tancredo.

“Finally the Western Slope at least has a voice in the main government in Denver, because it was lacking,” said Mike Feeley, an attorney, former state legislator and
current Mesa State College trustee. “It’s good that the Western Slope will have someone in Denver keeping an eye on things.”

Buescher will join Colorado Department of Transportation Executive Director Russ George as the only Western Slope members of the governor’s Cabinet.

Ritter, who selected Buescher over outgoing Speaker of the House Andrew Romanoff, D-Denver, and Sen. Ken Gordon, D-Denver, praised Buescher’s public- and private-sector experience.

“He will bring a wealth of knowledge and a diversity of legal, legislative and public-
service experience to the job,” Ritter said in a statement. “He has led private businesses and government agencies, and he has managed large work forces and multimillion-dollar budgets.”

Gayle Berry, who preceded Buescher as House District 55 representative and served four terms, called Buescher’s appointment “a great choice.”

“He has a business background and he’s also managed state departments, which is a skill that very few people have, combined with private-sector experience,” said Berry, who now works as a lobbyist in Denver.

Ritter’s appointment of Buescher could help the governor curry favor on the Western Slope.

He said Buescher will bring “a statewide perspective to a statewide office.”

Buescher said he believes he was picked over Romanoff and Gordon because he may have a higher level of management experience than them, as well as because of his reputation of working with Republicans and Democrats alike.

He also hinted at Ritter’s desire to have representation in his Cabinet from outside the metro Denver area.

“It means that western Colorado will continue to have a strong voice in Denver in a different way,” Buescher said. “I think I will also have some voice in decisions, bringing a non-metro viewpoint to a lot of issues. The governor has asked me specifically to be that voice.”

Buescher will enter an office that experienced legal and ethical trouble with Coffman and Coffman’s predecessor, Gigi Dennis. That history is at the forefront of his mind.

“I expect absolutely top-level ethics from everyone working in that office,” Buescher said.

“People have the right to know and expect that their elections are done above-board.”

Referring to Coffman’s decertification of voting machines in 2007 — a decision that irked Mesa County Clerk and Recorder Janice Rich, among others — Buescher said he intends to be “collaborative and open.”

“I intend to get local input from county clerks and boards of county commissioners as much as possible,” he said.

Buescher said his office will need to engage in a statewide discussion about how to finance elections “in a way that is sustainable,” given the challenges county clerks face and the options they want.

Rich said Buescher’s appointment creates an opportunity for the Secretary of State’s Office to work together with county clerks, something she said lacked in the past.

“I believe that Bernie will be more open to listen to all sides of an issue, instead of making knee-jerk reaction decisions,” Rich said. “I really do believe he wants to partner with the county clerks and make Colorado even more successful in elections than it has been. Mesa County has always had successful elections, but I think, for the state, he will try to bring back that success that has been torn down in the past.”

Beyond elections and voting machines, Buescher said he wants to improve the technology employed for lodging business filings and campaign finance reports.

He will spend a majority of his time in Denver, but Buescher said he and his wife will keep their Grand Junction home.


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