Steamboat political activist Catherine Carson named Colorado’s Democrat of the Year
January 22, 2018
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — In 1863 in the Colorado Territory, legendary mountain man, Army scout, tracker and bounty hunter Tom Tobin brought to justice one of America's first-known serial killers. He carried the killer's head in a bag to Ft. Garland as evidence.
Today, his great-great granddaughter does things a little differently. Instead, Catherine Carson leads her fellow Routt County Democrats in a more peaceful, effective manner.
So much so, that the Colorado Democratic Party has named her Democrat of the Year, an honor that's been held by Congressmen, Senators, party leaders and good old-fashioned grassroots activists.
"I was completely surprised when Morgan Carroll (Colorado Democratic Party chair) called me," said Carson, who serves as chairman of the Routt County Democrats. "I told her 'I'm certain there were other people who deserved it more than me. But the Routt County Dems are deserving, and I'd accept it on their behalf.'"
The award is no surprise to the hundreds of people who have worked with the Carson. She has dedicated her life to local charitable causes and politics since she retired from the energy industry and moved to Steamboat in 1999.
Routt County Commissioner Tim Corrigan was a political novice when he decided to run for office in 2012.
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"She was instrumental in making sure that the campaign I ran was positive. That I never engaged in negative campaigning," Corrigan said. "She has an intrinsic understanding that Routt County is not interested in negative politics but that the message needs to be positive about what good government is and how to go about executing that."
A fifth generation Coloradan, Carson, also the great-great granddaughter of famed mountain man Kit Carson, currently sits on the boards of the Routt County United Way and Yampa Valley Housing Authority and is part of the advisory council for the Yampa Valley Sustainability Council where she was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award last year.
But it's her ethical approach to politics that has gained her admiration from both sides of the "aisle."
"Catherine is incredibly fair minded and incredibly knowledgeable and certainly an advocate for people in general," says Tina Kyprios, former chair of the Routt County Republicans. "I'm not the list bit surprised Catherine is being recognized. She's very passionate about her issues."
Kyprios added that Carson makes the Energizer Bunny look slow.
Corrigan said Carson works side by side with Republicans during the voting process.
"She's a supporter of the sanctity of the voting system, and she does it right," Corrigan said.
Getting Carson to talk about herself is difficult, instead she heaps praise on her fellow Democrats.
"I'm truly humbled and honored, but any success I have had was because of the team effort of Routt County Democrats. Our values are heartfelt," she said, citing numerous community fundraisers they participate in like community clothes drives, autism fundraisers, bell ringing for United Way, supporting the Community Ag Alliance and the Yampa Valley Sustainability Council.
Carson got her start in organized political activity in 2004 when she started volunteering for the Routt County Democrats.
And talk about baptism under fire. Carson soon found herself working on a bi-partisan effort to deal with the infamous Tabor Amendment, which has choked funding for schools across Colorado. Her efforts on a 2005 ballot initiative helped correct some of the Tabor problems.
Her other proud moments as a Democrat activist include helping to pass the 5A for Homes ballot initiative for affordable housing last year; supporting the Women's March after Trump's election; voter registration efforts; candlelight vigils for the Las Vegas gun massacre; organizing the "Peaceful Everyone's Voice is Important Protest" last year before Congress voted on revamping the Affordable Care Act; and helping elect Dylan Roberts, a former Steamboat resident, to replace Diane Mitsch Bush as a member of the Colorado House of Representatives.
But Carson sees her most important contribution as giving a voice to all people.
"Routt County is such an amazing place to live,” Carson said. “My voice is the least important. It's my passion that our team is inclusive and transparent. Our goal is to ensure that everyone is heard."
Carson will be accepting her award the evening of Feb. 3 at the 2018 Obama Dinner Awards held at the Hilton Denver City Hotel. The dinner is one of the Colorado Democratic Party biggest fundraisers for candidates across the state.