Former school board president hones in on HD 57 seat |

Former school board president hones in on HD 57 seat

Bridget Manley

Jo Ann Baxter, former Moffat County School Board president and Colorado House District 57 contender, poses for a photo Monday in her Craig home. Baxter threw down the gauntlet for the seat in April, even though she initially had no plans to run for another public office.

After serving eight years on the Moffat County School Board, Jo Ann Baxter intended to step out of the spotlight.

The former school board president, who was term-limited, started writing her memoirs and contemplated drafting a collection of poetry for her grandchildren after she stepped off the board last year, she said.

But life had other plans.

Instead of devoting her time to writing, Baxter is exploring new realms of the Internet as she gears up her campaign for a new career in public life.

"I tweeted for the first time this week," she said, laughing.

Instead of reflecting on past milestones, she's looking toward a new chapter that could entail a position in the state legislature.

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Baxter announced her candidacy for the House District 57 seat April 19, following urgings from friends and colleagues who encouraged her to run for the office.

She resisted their encouragement at first, she said.

But Baxter, who is running as a Democrat, felt compelled to put in her bid after she learned the HD 57 race would be uncontested, she said.

Ron Roesener, a Republican contender from Parachute, failed to clinch a spot on the primary ballot during the Colorado State Republican Convention in April. The Colorado Democratic Party state assembly also failed to produce a challenger, leaving Republican Bob Rankin of Glenwood Springs unopposed.

"When it turned out that there wasn't going to be any opposition at all, it made me feel a little bit guilty, especially since I had been encouraged by so many people from Garfield County and from Moffat County," Baxter said.

The more she has pondered her decision, the more she's warmed up to the idea of serving at the state level.

"As I've thought about it, I've gotten more excited about doing it," she said

If elected, Baxter plans to make economic development one of her top priorities.

"We need a well-educated populace in order to improve our economic status," she said.

She also plans to focus on water issues, including "how we can avoid depleting our water resources as we develop our production … of our natural resources," she said.

She plans to draw from her professional experience, which includes two terms as school board president and 29 years as an educator at Moffat County High School.

"It's probably pretty obvious that education's going to be a top priority for me because that's my life's work," she said.

School funding concerns, both for K-12 schools and colleges are “critical issues that we have to find some solutions for," Baxter said.

Implementing the provisions of Colorado Senate Bill 10-191 also is crucial, she said.

Baxter has in-depth experience with this piece of legislation, designed to implement a statewide system for evaluating teachers and principals. She serves on the State Council for Educator Effectiveness, which offers recommendations to the Colorado State Board of Education regarding SB 191.

Her resume also includes terms on the Colorado Association of School Boards' legislative committee and the Colorado Education Association Board.

"Legislative issues that involve education are Jo Ann's passion," said Sandie Johns, Moffat County School Board president.

"And I don't know anybody in the world who's more passionate about our government, about the educational process, and … politics in general."

Johns is confident that her former colleague is the right person for the legislative seat.

"She's a strong lady and she can do this job," Johns said. "There is no doubt in my mind."

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At a glance:

Name: Jo Ann Baxter

Age: 71

Residence: Craig

Teaching career:

— 29 years at Moffat County High School, with stints as social studies, psychology, sociology, and economics teacher

— Half-time dean at MCHS for eight years

— Retired in 2003

Moffat County School Board experience:

— Served eight years beginning in November 2003

— School board president from 2005 to 2007 and from 2009 to 2011

— Exited the board in November 2011 due to term limits