News flash: Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper impressed a Weld County Republican in a visit to Greeley on Thursday.
Hickenlooper, a Democrat, spoke to members of four Greeley Rotary clubs at the Greeley Country Club during a noon luncheon, and Nicole Lauck came away with a new view of the governor.
“I had a different opinion of him when I came in today, and I’m leaving with a very positive opinion of him,” said Lauck, social director for the Northern Colorado Young Republicans, who even had a picture taken with Hickenlooper. “I felt very encouraged by his efforts to try and join the two parties, as far as making challenges to stop the bashing and to try and find a united front. I like his approach to small businesses.”
She added, “I did not have a very positive opinion of him (before). We have a Young Republicans meeting tonight, and I will have very high words to say about him.”
The engaging Hickenlooper told jokes and stories and spoke for 25 minutes on a variety of subjects including the oil and gas industry, fracking, water, the 2013 floods and the state’s recovery efforts, Colorado’s job growth, transparency in education, negative campaign ads and how Colorado is a model state for other states to follow.
Hickenlooper also answered questions from the audience for 25 minutes, and talked to people and took photos with them following the luncheon. Greeley Mayor Tom Norton introduced Hickenlooper and the governor received a limited edition challenge coin in a special presentation from Weld County Commissioners Barbara Kirkmeyer and Sean Conway.
Hickenlooper, who is running for re-election in November, told an audience of more than 200 people that Rotary clubs are the pulse and fabric of the community.
“I’ve been a Rotarian for 25 years,” Hickenlooper said after the luncheon. “They’re my peeps. They may be a Republican or a Democrat, but that’s not how they define themselves primarily. They think of themselves as citizens, and they want to make Greeley better, they want to make Colorado better.”
Hickenlooper talked about the 110,000 jobs in the state due to oil and gas with an average salary of $106,000.
He talked about how Colorado was the 40th-ranked state in creating jobs in 2010, and how last year it was the fourth best. He said Colorado has four of the top 10 cities in the U.S. when it comes to job start-ups.
Hickenlooper also talked about how Colorado residents have picked themselves up after experiencing 13 federal disaster declarations over the past three years.
“The people in Colorado don’t quit,” Hickenlooper told the Rotarians. “If there was some magical way to measure how many people live in a place, not because they came for a job promotion, but because they wanted to be here, I bet we have a higher percentage of people living in Colorado who really want to be here. This is where they want to build their lives more than any other state in America, and I think it creates a framework of collaboration and resilience that really should be a national model.”
Hickenlooper said afterward that he likes to speak at functions such as the Rotary luncheon.
“I love it,” he said. “It gets me out of Denver. It allows me to hear real people talk about real issues and hear their perspectives. So often, people think they know what other people think. But until you actually go and listen to them, you don’t know.”
Bev Stewart, a Red Eye Rotarian, said it was nice to hear some levity in Hickenlooper’s speech.
“The points he was trying to make with the jokes were worthwhile,” Stewart said. “I was kind of surprised to hear him talk about fracking, but he certainly knows about it. I liked his message about no negativity.”
Will Hume, president of Greeley Centennial Rotary, said Hickenlooper was the first Colorado governor to speak to the Rotarians in Greeley since Gov. Dick Lamb, who was governor from 1975-87.
“It’s been a long time coming. Rotary is not a political organization, but we are invested in our community events and it is important for us to hear the governor of the state of Colorado and listen to what he has to say and express our opinions as well. This was a great forum to do that,” Hume said. “Gov. Hickenlooper, being a Rotarian, we appreciate him selecting our clubs as a venue to have that conversation.”
Mike Frick of the Wednesday Rotary Club said he hopes Hickenlooper returns.
“It’s just nice for him to come up from Denver, see what we’re doing, what we’re thinking, how we’re progressing and what our needs are,” Frick said. “This is the first time I’ve heard him speak, one-on-one publicly, and I was very impressed with him.”
Red Eye Rotarian Daniel Preshaw said he thought Hickenlooper made a lot of good points.
“I’m not into politics too much, but I feel that he touched on a lot of important topics in terms of water and the oil and gas industry,” Preshaw said.
“Rotary is not a political organization, but we are invested in our community events and it is important for us to hear the governor of the state of Colorado and listen to what he has to say and express our opinions as well This was a great forum to do that.
— Will Hume, president of Greeley Centennial Rotary