There are the usual sobriquets such as scoundrel, thief, embezzler, wingnut, lib’rul, or even lawyer-lobbyist. Dan Maes called Tom Tancredo a “hypocritical, draft- dodging, TARP-voting, pot-endorsing thug!”
But none of that language is as strong as “professional politician.”
I don’t think that any local candidate in recent history (and certainly no winning candidate!) has admitted to being a professional politician.
Of course, the Pikes Peak region has plenty of them, though serving on school boards, city council or as an unpaid elected official doesn’t count. To be a professional, you have to make money at your profession. Serving a couple of terms as a paid elected official and then retiring gracefully doesn’t count, either. Ideally, you have to avoid term limits, jump from office to office, and even parlay your experience into one or more well-paid positions in state or local government.
So, here’s the list:
Doug Bruce: One term on the County Commission, one in the legislature and 20 years as the state’s most powerful, least endearing and most infuriating politician. The money he made from elected office is certainly far less than he spent on initiatives — but he’s the guy who will be in the history books.
Joel Hefley: Served a couple of terms in the state legislature, and moved up to the U.S. House, where he served 10 terms. His spouse, Lynn, gets a special “double dipper” award for her parallel service in the state legislature.
Doug Dean: After eight years in the legislature (including a term as Speaker of the House), he went to work for the state government. He was named insurance commissioner by Gov. Bill Owens and now serves as executive director of the Public Utilities Commission. Not bad for a guy who once made an honest living as a house painter.
Marcy Morrison: Two terms as a county commissioner, four terms in the legislature, an unpaid stint as Mayor of Manitou, and appointed as insurance commissioner by Gov. Bill Ritter. A pro’s pro.
Terry Harris: Three terms on the commission, two decades as the county’s chief administrative officer. The new courthouse bears his name. Terry, you da man!
Chuck Berry: Started off as El Paso County Attorney, served seven terms in the Colorado House (ah, those good, old pre-term-limit days), the last three as Speaker. Became president of the Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry in 2000, where he has remained since.
Renny Fagan: Served three terms in the legislature, and then vaulted to state government, where he served as executive director of the Department of Revenue and as a deputy Attorney General. He left state employment in 2006 to become state director for Sen. Ken Salazar, his former boss. When Salazar quit, Fagan moved into the private sector, taking a job as CEO of the Colorado Nonprofit Association.
Doug Lamborn: Two terms in the Colorado House, two in the upper chamber, and now running virtually unopposed for a third term in the U.S. House. Still a stripling youth of 56 (as members of Congress go, anyway), Lamborn may serve another eight or 10 terms, soaring past Joel Hefley. A lock for our Hall of Fame.
Bob Isaac: Served on city council from 1975-1996, including four terms as mayor and resigned in 1996. Our city’s most beloved leader, perhaps because he served without pay for most of his long career in politics and never took a paid position after his resignation.
Mary Lou Makepeace: 12 years on city council, six as the city’s elected mayor. Moved quietly into the private sector, where she has served as executive director of the Gay and Lesbian Foundation since 2003.
Lionel Rivera: Six years on city council, seven-and-a-half as mayor. Still comparatively young, and may yet qualify for all-pro status, unless he opts to stay in the private sector after term limits force him out in April.
Randy Purvis: Served five terms on city council, starting in 1987. He had to sit out one term (1999-2003) because of term limits, but roared back to serve two more. Alas, he makes a good living as an attorney in private practice, so he’ll never turn pro.
Notice something? The dozen pols listed above could also appear on a list of the dozen most influential local politicians of the last four decades.
Maybe we ought to use the same metrics for picking our elected officials that we use for pickup trucks.
Hazlehurst can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 719-227-5861. Watch him at 7:45 a.m. every Tuesday and Friday on Channel 3, Fox Morning News.