As John Hickenlooper is sworn in as governor on this brisk January morning, the man standing next to him, Joe Garcia, is preparing for double duty. The incoming lieutenant governor, who previously led Colorado State University-Pueblo and Pikes Peak Community College, has also been tapped by Hick to become the executive director of the state Department of Higher Education, notes EdNews Colorado, which writes that “Garcia’s becoming director of DHE would put the Hickenlooper administration directly in the middle of the often-tricky politics of Colorado higher ed.”
But, The Denver Post writes, “Capitol observers could recall no other instance of a lieutenant governor serving in a cabinet position, and…the administration is still seeking clarification from Attorney General John Suthers and lawmakers about the nomination.” Garcia would earn more money for the additional responsibilities: $68,500 salary as lieutenant governor and a separate salary for his ed duties, bringing him to a total of around $100,000 a year—a savings, says Hickenlooper.
Under Garcia, academic offerings expanded at CSU-Pueblo, football returned, and enrollment jumped, reports the Chieftain. Still, Garcia will be contending with a system that is severely strapped for cash. Other than drastic cuts, one solution for boosting higher-ed funds could lie in a ballot initiative. But it is “too early” to consider that alternative, Garcia says, adding that he wants to hear what ed groups have to say first. Meanwhile, CSU chancellor Joe Blake says the search for Garcia’s replacement is well underway, according to the Chieftain.