Maes always prepared with a backup plan

Photo by Dean Humphrey—Dan Maes said he groomed himself through high school in Wisconsin to become a West Point cadet and then an Army officer. When his plans fell through, he went to the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he earned a degree in sociology, and then into careers in law enforcement, sales and credit reporting, in the latter field owning his own business. Maes is shown Saturday during a campaign stop in downtown Grand Junction.

If not for an ulcer, Dan Maes might be a high-ranking Army officer by now.

That, at least, is what the Republican wanted to do just before graduating from a small-town high school in central Wisconsin.

At the time, he thought he was set. President of his senior class, captain of his school’s football team, even his time as a Boy Scout had all helped prepare him for a career in the military.

“Back then they didn’t know what they know today about ulcers,” Maes said. “They thought it was stress related, and they felt that the environment at West Point was going to be too stressful and would cause a recurring medical problem. I thought that was pretty weak myself.”

Born in Oak Lawn, Ill., into a family of six boys, his parents moved them to Red Lake, Wis.

Because his father died when he was 10, the now 49-year-old learned his work ethic early, mostly because the family needed all the help it could get.

He liked being in high school, spending that time on the student council, playing football and working summer and part-time jobs.

But after West Point fell through that spring of 1979, he had to search for other opportunities.

“So where was the next-best conservative institution to go to but the University of Wisconsin, Madison, right?” he said with no small measure of sarcasm.

The young Maes briefly played on the university football team’s practice squad as a fullback. The rest of the time he focused on his studies, graduating in 1983 with a degree in sociology and a certificate in criminal justice.

He wanted to move to Colorado, but as close as he could get was Liberal, Kan., where he took a job as a police officer. During that time, he got engaged and married a woman he would end up divorcing not long later, though not before the birth of his daughter, Jordan, who’s now managing his campaign.

As an officer, though, he got embroiled in a controversy that cost him his job.

His then chief, Richard Kistner, said he was fired for informing his fiancee’s family about an investigation into their role in an alleged betting operation. Maes says that’s not how it happened, and appealed the firing. It was denied.

“You’ve heard this scuttlebutt that I embellish my r&233;sum&233;,” Maes said. “I have never done that. What I’m telling you today is what I’ve told everybody.”

After two years as a cop, he moved to Colorado, where he worked for a time selling memberships in a wholesale-buying club. He learned he knew how to sell. It didn’t take long before he was named sales manager and, later, general manager.

By 1990, he went to work for a firm selling something few people had ever heard of then, voice mail services.

“When I interviewed, I didn’t know what they were trying to explain to me, but I said if it’s got something to do with a phone and a computer it’s got a future,” he said. “Once again I moved up from the bottom very quickly. I was sales manager six months after I joined the company.”

It was then Maes decided he wanted to be more than just a worker. But because his then-boss wouldn’t make him a partner, he went to work for another franchise in the company in Rochester, N.Y., where Maes said he tripled revenues.

The company was sold two years later, and the new owners hired him to run one of its offices in Chicago. After three years and a doubling in revenues, he decided it was time to return to Denver.

After a short stint in telecommunications equipment sales, Maes decided it was time for a new line of work. A guy in Evergreen had a firm, Advantage Credit, that had him selling credit reports to mortgage brokers. Later, he and his second wife, Karen, started a competing firm, which they called Amaesing Credit. The couple, who have two children, sold that business four years later.

“That’s when I sat back and searched by soul and said, what did you always really want to do?” he said. “When I started the company, one of my intentions was selling the company and running for office. That’s when I called (Colorado GOP chairman) Dick Wadhams and said, ‘I want to talk to you about running for governor.’ And here we are.”


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