Routt County’s Birch, Mitsch Bush to aid in Hickenlooper transition |

Routt County’s Birch, Mitsch Bush to aid in Hickenlooper transition

Hickenlooper invites input from VNA leader, county commissioner

Sue Birch
Matt Stensland

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Learn more about transition efforts for the incoming administration of Gov.-elect John Hickenlooper at

— Two prominent Routt County residents are taking part in rapidly progressing transition efforts for the incoming administration of Gov.-elect John Hick­­enl­­ooper.

Partners for Colorado, the nonprofit group established to smooth the Democrat’s move from Denver mayor to Colorado governor, announced Monday that Sue Birch, CEO of the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association, is one of 16 statewide co-chairs for the transition. That list contains some impressive names, including former Gov. Bill Owens, former Denver Mayor Wellington Webb, former Colorado State University President Al Yates and Club 20 Executive Director Reeves Brown.

Birch said she’s co-chair­woman of a health care policy and finance committee, which will address state policies involving Medicaid and children’s health care.

Also Monday, Routt County Commissioner Diane Mitsch Bush said she’d accepted an invitation to serve on a transportation committee.

Those committees and several others are tasked in coming weeks with creating a report for the new administration and recommendations on future work and leadership.

Birch said the health care policy and finance committee meets Thursday in Denver. Mitsch Bush has meetings Friday in Denver and Saturday in Frisco.

“It’s moving at an incredible pace, which this state needs,” Birch said about the transition effort, which is detailed online at “We need a surge of intellectual horsepower.”

Birch said that she’s known Hicken­­looper for several years and that the Denver mayor is familiar with the region. About four years ago, she said, he wrote a letter that helped secure federal qualifications for the Northwest Colorado Community Health Center in Craig. The center is affiliated with the VNA.

“He’s followed our work over the years, and I think he’s been really impressed with our Aging Well efforts,” Birch said. “He has a great love for rural Colorado and is very generous with his leadership mentoring.”

Health care policy and finance involves some of the largest portions of the state’s ailing budget. Birch said an increased focus is needed on early detection, preventive well-being and keeping the elderly “in more home- and community-based environments.”

Birch said increasing state support for primary caregivers is one way to move toward that goal. She said she’s looking forward to working with the transition team Hickenlooper has set up since his election Nov. 2.

“I do think the governor-elect has aligned himself with some incredible talent,” she said.

Like Birch, Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. President Chris Diamond said Tuesday that the governor-elect has a long history with Steamboat Springs.

Diamond held a fundraiser for Hickenlooper during summer — as a personal event, not associated with Ski Corp. — and said the Denver mayor has attended Strings Music Festival events “on numerous occasions over the years.”

“He’s got a pretty good understanding of the community and the culture,” Diamond said. “I think he’s very well-versed in Steam­­boat.”

Speaking from a Ski Corp. perspective, Diamond expressed hope that Hickenlooper would continue work to promote Colo­rado inside and outside its borders.

“Properly funding the CTO, the Colorado Tourism Office, is critical,” Diamond said. “He’s naturally a promoter. I would be very surprised if he doesn’t try to put forward some really creative ideas to grow the businesses that are here, including the ski business.”

GOP action

Colorado Republicans also are gearing up for new leadership roles. A 33-32 House majority is likely for the GOP — final counts in two districts were pending Tuesday — when the 2011 legislative session convenes next year.

Highlands Ranch Republican state Rep. Frank McNulty, designated as Colorado’s next speaker of the House, announced committee leaders Tuesday. Mc­­Nulty appointed state Rep. Randy Baum­­gardner, R-Hot Sulphur Springs, vice chairman of the House Agriculture, Livestock and Natural Resources Committee. Baum­­gardner defeated Steamboat Springs Democrat Steve Ivancie to retain the House District 57 seat that represents Northwest Colorado counties including Routt.

Baumgardner served on the agriculture committee during his first term.

Statewide co-chairs

Leaders of the transition effort for the administration of Democratic Gov.-elect John Hickenlooper include:

Sue Birch, CEO, Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association

Reeves Brown, executive director, Club 20

Terry Dye, owner, Dyecrest Dairy

Cole Finegan, managing partner, Hogan Lovells

Stephanie Garcia, president/executive director, Pueblo Board of Education/ARC of Pueblo

Bill Hybl, chairman and CEO, El Pomar Foundation

Frances Koncilja, lawyer, Koncilja and Associates

Bill Long, Bent County commissioner and president of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District

Donna Lynne, president, Kaiser Foundation Health Plan Colorado

Greg Maffei, CEO, Liberty Media

Bill Owens, former governor

Kathay Rennels, director of economic development, Colorado State University

LeRoy Salazar, founder, Agro Engineering

James Stewart, CEO, Colorado Springs Black Chamber of Commerce

Wellington Webb, former Denver mayor

Al Yates, former president, Colorado State University

Source: Partners for Colorado

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