Jean White appointed to state senate
Hayden Republican to serve in husband’s place
After five hours of proceedings and five rounds of voting, Jean White’s heart was racing in anticipation of the committee’s decision.
But, with the phrase “White: four,” she said her heart stopped, only to be restarted by the crowd’s applause Monday inside the Moffat County Courthouse in Craig signaling her appointment to the state senate.
“I’m speechless, frankly,” the 60-year-old Hayden Republican said between congratulations from the audience. “It’ll take a while to sink in, but I don’t have much time to think about it — I’ve got to get to work. A week from Wednesday is the swearing-in and I need to be ready to go.”
Jean replaces her husband of more that three decades, Al, in the Colorado State Senate’s Eighth District.
She secured the four votes from a Republican vacancy committee by its seven present members.
Jean competed against five other candidates for the position.
The other applicants were former Moffat County Commissioner T. Wright Dickinson; former Third Congressional Dis-
trict candidate and Steamboat Springs resident Bob McConnell; Jeff Fry, of Hayden; Shannon Stowe, of Glenwood Springs; and Kay Meyring, of Walden.
Al will be named director of the Colorado Tourism Office on Jan. 11 and Jean will serve the remaining two years of his term.
White said she was honored to be chosen from a “wonderful” field of candidates and was grateful for the competition and interest in the seat.
“I knew it wasn’t going to be a slam dunk,” she said. “I am happy with what the outcome was, of course, and I think it was a great process.”
However, Jean felt she was the right choice for the seat based on her “working knowledge” of the district, including the issues, industries and concerns of its constituents.
“More importantly, all of that traveling in the district has provided me with relationships with … elected officials, commissioners, community leaders — these are the people a legislator needs to call on when things need to get done at the legislature,” she said to the vacancy committee.
Jean also mentioned that her service helping Al during his career in the legislature would better prepare her for the appointment.
“That has put me in close touch with the … legislative process and I’m telling you folks, there are a lot of moving parts (in) the legislative process,” she said. “It takes a long time to learn those ropes.”
Both of those aspects, she said, gave her a “clear advantage” over a “freshman” senator.
“I do feel that I have the most experience in the district and under the dome,” she said. “I can hit the ground running so that we can have solid representation at the capitol from day one.”
Jean fielded several questions from the committee, including her thoughts on the state’s budget, natural resources, energy development and tourism.
She said the key to getting the state’s economy on track is supporting small business and “not making it harder for them to succeed.”
Tourism, she added, is “critical to our business environment and to jumpstart our economy,” and energy development is the “heart and soul” of the district.
Jean said she would be able to balance the diverse issues presented to her in both the legislature and from within the district.
“There are always fights down at the state capitol where one industry gets pitted against another,” she said. “We saw it last year with (Colorado House Bill 10-) 1365 pitting the coal industry against the natural gas industry and that was a painful deal to watch.”
In her closing speech to the vacancy committee, Jean said she would be a senator who would “work across the aisle and work across the divide.”
“I have been here a long, long time,” Jean said. “But, today what I want to wrap up with is that for the … past 10 years I have traveled this district extensively and I have attended hundreds of community meetings in every single county in this great district. I have toured coal mines, I have toured the power plant, I have put in the time in the district. On the other side of the mountain, I have put in the time down there, too.”
John Ponikvar, Moffat County Central Republican Committee Chairman, said he was pleased with Jean’s appointment.
“I think she’ll get down there and she’ll do a very good job for us,” he said. “She has the ability to hit the ground running (and) to be effective immediately. In the end, I think the committee made a good decision.”