Bridges tests the waters

Growing up poor in rural Georgia, Rutt Bridges doesn't think he could have been successful in life if it wasn't for affordable public higher education.

But as Colo-rado legislators discuss privatizing the states' higher education system, Bridges is concerned that young people won't get the same opportunities he had.

His concern about education and health care has prompted him to consider running for Colorado governor in 2006.

Bridges, founder of the Bighorn Center for Public Policy, a Denver think tank, met Thursday with Craig residents at the Golden Cavv-y to discuss issues affecting North-west Colorado. Bridges is on a 24-stop tour of Colorado as he tests the waters before deciding whether to enter the governor's race.

Bridges said the purpose of the meeting was to listen to voters' concerns. But he said something had to be done so Colorado's indigent population could receive medical care without having to go to the emergency room.

"From the perspective of a human being, it's something we have to do," he said.

When people don't have affordable health care, they go to emergency rooms. It costs the government 10 times more to pay for emergency-room visits than family care clinic visits, Bridges said.

Forty-six states spend more on kindergarten through 12th grade education than Colorado spends, Bridges said, and 47 states spend more on higher education. A state needs an educated work force to attract companies, he said.

Bridges earned a degree in physics from Georgia Tech, a public university. After graduating, Bridges landed a job in Texas with the oil company Chevron. In 1980, he moved to Colorado and founded Advanced Geophysical, a computer company that designed technology to search for oil more efficiently.

After developing technology that enabled companies to find oil more often, he sold the company for $70 million. Five years later, he opened Bighorn. Bighorn's accomplishments include developing the Colorado No Call list, which prohibits telemarketers from calling people who don't want to be solicited by phone.

Bridges has two sons and he has been married twice.

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