VALLEY— Named the state’s new Commissioner of Agriculture on Wednesday, John Salazar may be the first member of the governor’s cabinet allowed to “work from home” - at least part of the time.
One of the considerations for Salazar accepting Gov.-elect John Hickenlooper’s offer to head up the state agricultural department was the agreement that he could set up a field office in the San Luis Valley and work part of the week out of Denver and the remainder “from home” in the Valley.
Concluding three terms in the nation’s capital as U.S. representative for the 3rd Congressional District, Salazar said he had been looking forward to spending more time on the family ranch when he was approached by Hickenlooper to serve in his new cabinet.
“I wanted to stay home for a couple of months, but it’s not going to happen,” Salazar said on Wednesday. “It was a tough decision. I love the Valley. I just love it here so much.”
Salazar said when he talked with Hickenlooper before accepting the new governor’s offer, he told Hickenlooper how much he had looked forward to being on the ranch and spending more time in the Valley, and Hickenlooper suggested a plan that would accommodate both their needs.
“He said ‘if you commit to 2 1/2 days in Denver and open a field office in Alamosa or the Valley I would be fine with that’,” Salazar said.
He said that would be a first for the Valley, as it was when he had opened a congressional office here. (Salazar’s congressional successor Scott Tipton is retaining the office in Alamosa.)
In announcing Salazar’s role in the new administration on Wednesday, Hickenlooper pointed out why Salazar was the perfect candidate for the post.
“A thriving agriculture sector is critical to Colorado’s economic recovery,” Hickenlooper said. “Farmers and ranchers are also leading the way as business innovators. Their prosperity helps build a foundation for all of Colorado. And no one has been a more passionate champion for agriculture and rural communities than John Salazar. We are fortunate to have his leadership at the helm of the Department of Agriculture.”
A sixth-generation farmer and rancher who was raised in the Valley and graduated from Adams State College, Salazar was a member of the House Agriculture Committee and played a key role in passing the historic farm bill of 2008. His legislative services surrounding agricultural issues earned him recognition from the American Farm Bureau and National Farmers Union. He also served on the House Appropriations Committee where he worked on national energy issues, jobs creation and the economy.
Prior to federal office, Salazar served in the state House of Representatives and had previously served with the Colorado Agricultural Leadership Forum and the Colorado Agricultural Commission.
He was one of the few active farmers in Congress. A veteran of the U.S. Army, Salazar also served on the House Veterans Affairs Committee.
“I look forward to working with Gov.-elect Hickenlooper and serving the people of Colorado as the Commissioner of Agriculture for the next four years,” Salazar said. “I am excited about the great possibilities of expanding our energy opportunities along with marketing value-added products and promoting the second-largest economy in Colorado.”
Following manufacturing, agriculture and tourism vie for second and third places in Colorado’s economy, Salazar added.
Salazar did not have an exact start date for his new position but said it would occur after the new governor’s inauguration and his own senate confirmation process.
As executive director of the Colorado Department of Agriculture, Salazar will oversee numerous divisions including the Animal Industry Division, Brands Division, Colorado State Fair, Commissioner’s Office, Conservation Services Division, Inspection & Consumer Services Division, Markets Division and Plant Industry Division.
Current Colorado Commissioner of Agriculture John Stulp will have a new role in the Hickenlooper’s administration as Special Policy Advisor to the Governor on Water, Hickenlooper announced on Wednesday.
In that position, Stulp will serve as chairman of the Interbasin Compact Committee established to address statewide water issues. The Rio Grande Interbasin Roundtable in the San Luis Valley is part of that effort.