DENVER (AP) – Colorado’s lieutenant governor announced Tuesday he is leaving his post to run a higher education commission in the West.
Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia will serve as president of the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education, which has 16 member states, including California, Alaska, Montana, and New Mexico. The group is headquartered in Boulder.
“This was a difficult decision, but education has always been my passion,” Garcia said in a statement. Before he was elected lieutenant governor in 2010 with Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper, he was president of Colorado State University-Pueblo. “I look forward to carrying the message of opportunity, college completion and workforce development throughout the West.”
Hickenloooper will name a replacement, who must be confirmed by both chambers of the Legislature. The governor gave no timetable for naming a replacement.
While lieutenant governor, Garcia also served as executive director of the Colorado Department of Higher Education. The state Senate will have to confirm the appointment of whoever Hickenlooper selects for that role.
“Joe will be nearly impossible to replace,” Hickenlooper said in a statement. “He has been an exceptional lieutenant governor and in leading education efforts for Colorado. He has given five years selflessly to the success of this state and the future education of our children. We are grateful and wish him continued success.”
Part of the mission of the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education is to share resources and pursue policy initiatives that can benefit member states. A date has not been set for when Garcia will begin his new job.
Before his career in politics, Garcia also served as president of Pikes Peak Community College and as executive director of the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies.
“Joe Garcia has simply been a tremendous asset to Colorado,” said House Speaker Dickey Lee Hullinghorst, a Democrat from Boulder. “I have no doubt that his record of exemplary service will continue at WICHE, which has been finding regional solutions to higher education issues for more than 60 years.”
Garcia attended Harvard Law School, where he earned a juris doctorate, and before that he graduated from the University of Colorado with a business degree.
Additional Information from Gov. Hickenlooper’s office:
Before he was elected lieutenant governor, Garcia was president of Colorado State University – Pueblo. He also served as president of the second-largest community college in Colorado, Pikes Peak Community College and as the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary’s Representative for the Rocky Mountain States; Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies; and was named the first Hispanic partner in the 100-year history of the law firm, Holme Roberts & Owen.
Lt. Gov. Garcia has been actively involved throughout his career as a board member for many non-profit agencies such as the YMCAs of Pueblo, Colorado Springs and Denver; Pikes Peak Legal Aid; the Colorado Springs and Pueblo Economic Development Agencies; The Colorado Housing and Finance Authority (where he served as board president); the Pikes Peak Child Nursery Centers Inc.; the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities; and numerous other civil rights, educational, and cultural organizations. He earned a business degree from the University of Colorado and a juris doctorate from Harvard Law School.
In the event of a vacancy, the governor nominates the lieutenant governor who takes office upon confirmation by a majority vote of both houses according to the Colorado constitution.
The Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education and its 16 members work collaboratively to expand educational access and excellence for all citizens of the West. By promoting innovation, cooperation, resource sharing, and sound public policy among states and institutions, WICHE strengthens higher education’s contributions to the region’s social, economic, and civic life. Its programs – Student Exchange, the WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies, Policy Analysis and Research, and Mental Health and several other interstate collaborations – are working to find answers to some of the most critical questions facing higher education today. WICHE’s 16 members include Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawai‘i, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, Wyoming, and the U.S. Pacific territories and freely associated states (the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands is the first of the group to participate).