Craig Brian Smith
Craig Daily Press
After five hours of proceedings and five rounds of secret voting, Jean White received the four votes needed to appoint her to replace her husband, Al White, as Northwest Colorado’s representative for state Senate District 8.
A senate selection committee reached the decision Monday night inside the Moffat County Courthouse in Craig.
“I’m speechless, frankly,” the 60-year-old Hayden Republican said while being congratulated by members of 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 White secured the four votes from a Republican vacancy committee of seven members. She competed against five other candidates for the position: former Moffat County Commissioner T. Wright Dickinson; former 3rd Congressional District candidate and Steamboat Springs resident Bob McConnell; Hayden resident Jeff Fry; Glenwood Springs resident Shannon Stowe; and Walden resident Kay Meyring.
Al White gave up his seat after being named director of the Colorado Tourism Office by Gov.-elect John Hickenlooper. Jean White 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.”
Jean White said 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 told the vacancy committee Monday.
She also mentioned that her service helping her husband during his career in the Legislature would better prepare her.
“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.”
Those aspects, she said, gave her a “clear advantage.”
“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 White 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 businesses 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.
She said she would be able to balance the diverse issues presented to her in 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 White 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,” she 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 White’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.”