Steamboat Springs A key part of Rollie Heath's campaign for governor is his visits. After deciding to run as the Democratic candidate for governor two years ago, he made a point to visit residents in all of Colorado's 64 counties, returning to many of the counties multiple times.
Heath said he is confident that he can beat out Republican Gov. Bill Owens at the polls next fall, and that once he does, his visits across the state won't stop.
He said that interacting with the public and learning about their problems and opinions is the most important and the most enjoyable part of the job.
Yesterday he stopped in Steamboat Springs on his way to deliver a speech at the Democratic dinner in Craig.
"I've listened, I've learned and I'm ready to lead," Heath said. "Simply put, I really care and I think I've got the experience to make a difference."
Heath, 64, has lived in Colorado for 31 years. Although this is his first time running for public office, he said that his past experiences have given him the leadership skills needed to be a governor.
He served in the United States Army for 22 years, retiring as a Lieutenant Colonel.
From 1973 to 1990, he managed 10,000 employees and had more than $1 billion in sales as an executive for the Johns Manville Corporation.
He co-founded Ponderosa Industries, a small business that manufactures metal parts.
"My whole life has been helping form a vision and a plan and making it happen," Heath said.
There are multiple plans Heath said he has for Colorado.
One is to support and boost tourism in the state, something that he said Owens has not been successful at doing especially during times of crises such as the fires, drought and chronic wasting disease crises that the state has experienced.
Heath said that Owens' recent comments implying that all of Colorado was on fire have turned tourists away from the state and consequently have hurt small businesses.
"I think we need desperately to put an open-for-business sign up," Heath said.
He said his marketing skills give him an edge on Owens for keeping tourism strong in the state.
Improving health care and education are also high on Heath's list.
As a co-founder of a small business, Heath said he knows the difficulties in getting adequate health insurance for employees that businesses face.
The health care system overall, Heath said, has serious problems that need to be addressed.
"The system is just broken," Heath said. "I'm a firm believer that when it's broken like this, you have got to step out of the box and get some creative solutions."
Heath said he was working on drafting these creative solutions to the health care quandary, and that his plan should be available in the next few weeks.
Besides making sure the education system works for all children, Heath said he would revamp Colorado's program for testing how well students are doing in schools, more commonly known as the CSAP.
The problem with CSAP, Heath said, is that it doesn't reflect how students have improved over the year, which makes it harder for teachers, students and schools starting with lower overall scores to succeed.
The key to transportation problems, he said, is encouraging options such as bus and light-rail systems that would help people keep their cars off the road and would reduce traffic and pollution.
Besides his extensive volunteer work with Denver schools, Heath spends his free time acting in community plays with his wife, Josie, who ran for the U.S. Senate in 1992, and visiting with his three children and three grandchildren.
He's even known for his passion for picking wild asparagus, which he'll even do after a 16-hour workday.
Heath's campaign manager Mike Dino said that Heath's chances of winning the election are good.
"He's beaten a lot of odds already," Dino said, " and we plan to beat more."