Colorado has been my home since 1976 when I moved from Saint Paul Minnesota to Steamboat Springs and fell in love with the rural, friendly, small town along the Yampa River, nestled in the mountains.
Growing up in Minnesota meant swimming in lakes, hiking the woods, skating on the creeks, and always, waiting for the first snow. I read all I could about nature, science, and the outdoors in our wonderful public library, and my dedicated public school teachers helped fill my thirst for more knowledge. Our Science Museum had great low cost or free summer programs for kids. While my mother was at work every day, I was learning about science and experiencing nature.
Politics were important in my family, and dinner table discussions often centered on problems of the early 1960’s and how we could solve them. When I was 10 I was inspired by our young President John F. Kennedy urging us to “ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country”.
My mother instilled in me the value of public service and volunteering. She expected me to think about others before myself. Caring, compassion, and love for others meant that we had a responsibility to make our world better than we found it. This is still one of my core beliefs. That’s what I have worked to do as a public servant.
In high school, two books shaped what would become my life long passion for public service: Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring and Michael Harrington’s Other America. Carson’s book is often credited with kindling the 1970’s environmental movement by showing us how pollution disrupted the intricate web of our ecosystems. Harrington’s book along with Bobby Kennedy’s visits to the poorest parts of our nation spurred our attention to the lack of equal opportunity and the existence of grinding poverty in our country.
The spring I graduated from High School was tumultuous: both Dr. Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy were assassinated, opposition to the Vietnam War grew, and race riots in major US cities were on the news every night. Our country was divided.
My aspiration was to help bring people back together so we all could pursue the American Dream. So I majored in sociology and social policy at the University of Minnesota, a public land grant university, and graduated summa cum laude. Back then higher education was well funded so it was cheap enough that I had no student debt, and neither did anyone else.
I began to understand more fully that not everyone had the same opportunities that I did with great public schools, libraries and science museums, as well as a caring family who encouraged me – indeed expected me – to succeed.
The first Earth Day celebration on the University of Minnesota campus in 1970 was two weeks before the bombing of Cambodia and the shooting deaths of 4 college students who protested the bombing at Kent State. Sitting on the green mall at the U with my fiancé Steve Bush, we had an “aha” moment: only by building bridges, not barriers, would we be able to solve these intertwined problems of unequal opportunity, injustice, and environmental degradation.
I entered graduate school because I believed that scientific research could produce policies to bring us together and help solve these problems.
Six years later, we moved to Steamboat Springs intending to ski for a year while I finished up my PhD. The 1976-1977 ski season was a hundred-year drought in Colorado, which immersed me in western water issues. That made me realize that our free-flowing Western Slope rivers are critical for our economy, our environment, and our communities. Ever since, I have worked to protect our water.
I also quickly became involved in tourism, transportation, and issues facing family ranches and farms — concerns that have never flagged. I came for the beauty and awe of the mountains. I stayed because I grew to love our rural communities, where people work hard, play by the rules, and care about each other.
My love for our environment and our communities blossomed into a passion for public service and bringing people together to build a more vibrant economy with opportunities for all. I started getting involved as a local advocate, working with ranching families and conservation groups because I believed in my community.
I then served for 10 years as a rural county planning commissioner, protecting our lands. In 2006 and again in 2010, I was elected as a Routt County Commissioner where I worked directly with people of rural Northwest Colorado on water rights, tourism, agriculture, public lands, broadband, transportation funding and affordable housing.
I was active in Club20 as a voting board member and Executive Committee member, working with people of all walks of life across the Western Slope. My reputation for hard work and effectiveness paid off in 2012 when I was elected to represent Routt and Eagle counties in the state legislature.
My experiences as a social science policy researcher and professor, a rural mountain community advocate for over 25 years, and an elected official for 12 years have made me understand that renewable energy, job creation, economic vitality and a clean environment are all interconnected.
I believe that high quality public education is the key to opportunity, because it was for me. I have worked to strengthen early childhood education and childcare, our K-12 system, and to provide more funding for higher education.
I have supported bills to help businesses create good jobs and provide workforce training, including apprenticeships. As a volunteer and as an elected official, I have worked on all these issues since the 1990’s, and will bring that experience and knowledge to Washington.
If you honor me by electing me to the US Congress, I will always keep this quote from our 1876 Colorado Constitution in mind:
Article II Bill of Rights, Section 1. Vestment of Political Power
All political power is vested in the people; all government, of right, originates from the people, is founded upon their will only, and is instituted solely for the good of the whole.
I have kept it posted in my office ever since I was first sworn in as a Routt County commissioner in January of 2007. Every day I look at it and remember that I work for you.
Today, my husband, Michael Paul, and I love to alpine ski, backcountry ski, mountain bike, backpack, and rock climb. He retired two years ago from 35 years as one of the co-managers of ski tuning and bike tuning at the Ski Haus in Steamboat Springs.
We know that for our local communities to thrive, we need to have a representative in the US Congress who actually listens to us, who understand the issues facing us, who uses evidence - not ideology- as the basis for decision-making, and who leaves her ego outside on the Capitol steps.
We need a Congressperson who is OUR strong voice in Washington. I promise you to be your strong voice for the Western Slope and Southern Colorado at our Nation’s Capitol, just as I have been our strong rural, Western Slope voice down at the Colorado Capitol. I would be honored to have your support.