Colorado Lt. Gov. Garcia to Leave for Higher Education Role


Colorado’s Lieutenant Governor announced this week that he will be stepping down next year to run a higher education commission in the West.

Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia, who is currently in his second term, is expected to serve as president of the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education.  The commission has a $25 million annual budget to use for higher education purposes in Western states.  There are currently 16 member states including California, Alaska, Montana, and New Mexico, with its headquarters in Boulder, Colorado.

In a news release, Garcia said although it was a difficult decision to make, he enjoys working in the education field and is excited to continue his work by “carrying the message of opportunity, college completion and workforce development throughout the West.”

Governor John Hickenlooper is expected to name a replacement, although no timetable has been given and no list of candidates has been released.  His choice must be confirmed by both chambers of the Legislature, writes Joey Bunch for The Denver Post.

Hickenlooper recently said he has not considered anyone specific to replace Garcia yet, but that the transition period would give him additional time to complete the process.

It is possible that former state treasurer Cary Kennedy could be in the running as a replacement for Garcia.  Kennedy is also thought to be a possible candidate for governor in 2018.  She said she has not yet been contacted by the governor’s office about replacing Garcia, but that she would consider the role if offered to her.

As Lieutenant Governor, Garcia also served as executive director of the Colorado Department of Higher Education.  It is still unknown whether Hickenlooper will look for Garcia’s replacement to also hold both roles.

“Joe will be nearly impossible to replace,” Hickenlooper said in a statement. “He has been an exceptional lieutenant governor and in leading education efforts for Colorado. He has given five years selflessly to the success of this state and the future education of our children. We are grateful and wish him continued success.”

Before being given the position under Hickenlooper in 2010, Garcia served as president of Colorado State University-Pueblo for four years.  Prior to that, he served as president of Pikes Peak Community College in Colorado Springs for five years.

When he was originally selected by Hickenlooper as a running mate for the gubernatorial campaign in 2010, he was described by the then-mayor as a self-made man who has significantly helped higher education in Colorado by using his skills of dealing with tight budgets and building coalitions with business and community members.

Garcia currently earns an annual salary of $158,000 in his role as lieutenant governor and directing higher education.  He will earn around $225,000 in his new role, which he will move into before July 1, 2016.