Gary Lindstrom, Democrat – candidate in Dist. 56 |

Gary Lindstrom, Democrat – candidate in Dist. 56

Daily Staff Report
Special to the Daily Gary Lindstrom

After the state Legislature ended its 2004 session, Lindstrom, a Democrat, was appointed to fill out the term of former Rep. Carl Miller, who stepped down to join the Public Utilities Commission because term limits wouldve prevented him from running for re-election. Lemon lost narrowly to Miller in 2002. She won more votes in Eagle County. Lindstrom was a police officer and coroner before he was elected to the Summit Count board of commissioners.

Scott N. MillerDaily Staff WriterEAGLE COUNTY – Elective office has its rewards, but they’re hard to put in the bank. At least that’s been Gary Lindstrom’s experience over the years.Lindstrom, a Breckenridge Democrat, has spent most of his working life in public service, and has spent that last 18 years as an elected official, serving first as Summit County’s coroner, and the last 10 years as a commissioner there. He resigned that position earlier this year to accept an out-of-session appointment to the seat in the Colorado House of Representatives that representatives Eagle, Summit and Lake counties. Lindstrom replaced former Rep. Carl Miller, a term-limited Leadville Democrat who resigned earlier this year to serve on the Colorado Public Utilities Commission board.Lindstrom, an Iowa native, came to Colorado in 1970 to take a job with the Lakewood Police Department. That job led to a position with Jefferson County schools as the district’s first director of security.While still working in Jefferson County, Lindstrom and his wife, Lynne, moved to Summit County. They adopted the commuter lifestyle for a couple of years before landing jobs locally, Lindstrom with the Summit County Sheriff’s Department and Lynne with the local school district.Except for a brief stint working construction jobs with his friend Del Ewald, Lindstrom has spent virtually all his time in Colorado working in government. The construction job ended when Ewald was elected Summit County’s Sheriff. That’s also when Lindstrom became a Republican.”I’d been a Democrat all my life,” Lindstrom said. “But Del was a big-time Republican. When he asked me to be undersheriff, I told him, ‘I’m a Democrat.’ And he said, ‘No, you’re a Republican.’ So I went and changed my registration.”The accidental politicianThanks to Ewold, Lindstrom started attending various party functions, and got to know committee members, state officials and other bigwigs. When Summit County’s Republican coroner resigned, he was urged to apply for the post, which he landed. Lindstrom then ran for the job three times, winning election each time.Since the coroner’s job isn’t full-time, Lindstrom also held down his job as the county’s director of public safety.In the early 1990s, another political office opened up: a commissioner’s job. Lindstrom was one of nearly 20 applicants for the job, and, after a selection process that included public interviews, he was appointed to the post.”I’ve always kind of thought of myself as an accidental politician,” he said.Lindstrom ran in and won three elections for the commissioner’s job, the last as an independent.”I was actually endorsed by the Democrats and Republicans that time,” he said. “But after that, I decided I’m not going to go through running as an unaffiliated again. That’s when I realized I was really more of a Democrat.”But going from his appointed county job to an elected one meant taking a pay cut. There were other rewards, though.”You don’t do this for the money,” he said. Lindstrom said he talks nearly every day to a woman in Leadville who’s having trouble navigating the state’s disability pay system. “That’s the payout, genuinely knowing you’ve helped somebody in their own life,” Lindstrom said. “There’s a lot of gratification in that.”While he was still a cop, Lindstrom volunteered to run some “tough love” classes for juvenile offenders. “To this day, I’ll get calls from people who say ‘You don’t remember me, but I was in that class,'” he said. “That’s neat.”The chance to make a change is what’s driving this run for the state House. “I really feel as though the Legislature and the state are in deep trouble,” he said, and partisanship is a big part of the problem. Lindstrom said his skills as a trained mediator can have an effect in Denver.”You do this because you think you can make a difference,” he said. “I’ve always been in public service. I just can’t imagine being an insurance salesman or selling real estate.”

Q: As the region’s drought persists, Front Range owners of Western Slope water rights will put increasing pressure on the area’s streams and reservoirs. What’s your plan to protect local interests while still honoring the legal rights of those who own the water? A: “For the most part communities in the mountains do not get water from lakes and reservoirs. Most of our water comes from deep wells. Our interest is normally not in using the water but preserving it for the environment and recreation. We want to keep our streams and reservoirs full to help our tourism economy. Every drop of water in Colorado is owned by someone. We should work very hard to keep the water here as long as possible before it flows downstream or to the Front Range. Small, high-altitude reservoirs are the very best way to accomplish this goal.”Q: As the Western Slope grows, so does its need for water. How can we meet that need, and what solutions are available at a state level to get the job done? A: “We need to always make sure that we have a seat at the table when the discussions happen. Through the Colorado River District and other water boards we need to use what resources we can muster to keep water on the west slope as long as possible. In the past we have used state laws to protect our interests and the state Legislature is critical to that process.”Q: The state’s budget continues to be squeezed by the conflicting requirements of the Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights (TABOR), Amendment 23 and the Gallagher Amendment. Several efforts to craft a compromise solution failed earlier this year. What’s your favored solution, and how can a compromise be hammered out? A: “We need to stop the partisan behavior on the part of the senators and representatives. The only way we will find a solution is to work together. This is the fault of the Republicans and the Democrats. There is way too much turf protection going on in the state budget process. “I think that we need to amend TABOR to remove the limits on state revenues and to suspend Amendment 23 for a short period to recover our state budget. The effort to end Gallagher failed by a wide margin a couple of years ago. To encourage business we should work toward changing the way commercial property is taxed. We could also raise state income tax rates to increase revenue. Our income tax is very small compared to other states.”Q: With the state’s budget crunch has come postponement of several projects along Interstate 70. How crucial are any of these projects in the next 10 years? A: “They are all crucial. We are already in a crisis on I -70. We should be building a solution now instead of still talking about it. It has been studied to death. It is time to move. “If these projects are necessary, is it possible to get any of them started given the current budget? It is a matter of priorities. Five days a week the residents of Denver drive on the Front Range. Two days a week they drive in the mountains. The funding has been directed toward the seven-day-a-week issue to the detriment of the two days in the mountains. “If Governor Owens and Tom Norton decided to change their priorities we could get some relief in weeks and not years. It might take a change in governors in two years.”Q: Finally, and using as little campaign rhetoric as possible, why do you want this job? A: “I feel that I am the best person for the job. I have worked in government for over 40 years and have been an elected official for 20 years. I would not have a learning curve and would hit the ground running in January. I first moved to the mountains in 1974, and I believe that I understand the needs and the wants of the people in our communities.”Scott Miller can be reached at Colorado

Q: No one will argue that water is one of the more pressing issues facing the state in recent years. What is (are) the solution(s), and how, specifically, would you obtain funding to do what you think would solve both Front Range and Western Slope challenges?A: The Front Range needs to enact master plans to manage growth and plan for water. Currently they approve development and then find water and are running out of alternatives. The West Slope needs to build small, high-mountain reservoirs to store water against droughts and to keep our streams and lakes full for the environment and recreation.Q: Which CDOT project do you believe is the most important for the state to fund and why?A: To start building projects that would alleviate the capacity issues from Denver to Eagle County Airport. CDOT must get serious about long-range planning for alternative transportation and to secure funding now for the future. There is no vision for the future in any of CDOT planning.Q: How will you work to obtain money to fund the project? A: We need to get active in lobbying for funding with the Federal Highway Administration. There are billions of dollars appropriated each year for projects but Colorado projects get lost due to a lack of a strong lobby in Washington.Q: How do you plan to address TABOR and Amendment 23, which, in tandem, are ratcheting down the ability of the state to spend money?A: We need to suspend the limits in TABOR while preserving Amendment 23. Education is the future of Colorado and we are making a tax statement to the detriment of our children.Q: How do you feel about Amendment 36, which would proportionately allocate the states nine Electoral College votes instead of using the current winner-take-all system?A: It is a move in the right direction. We cant let Florida happen again where the person with the fewer votes became president. I would vote to abolish the Electoral College. It was created to address a problem in the 18th century more than 200 years ago. It is time for a change.Q: What should Colorado do to become a contender again in the tourism industry?A: It is all about marketing. We need to spend more money marketing the state.Q: How should it be funded?A: A tourism tax that is levied on the tourists and not the taxpayers of the state. It should be a direct user tax paid for by our guests.Q: Budget cuts are forcing legislators to slash human services and higher education. How do we stop the blood-letting, or do we come up with a different way to fund these?A: It is the trickle-down effect. The thing starts in Washington D.C. and manifests itself in our local communities. It is a matter of priorities. If we make human services a priority then we will fund the programs. Right now our money is not being used for human services or education.Q: What ideas do you have to help bolster the economy? A: We need to diversify our economy. Right now we are based solely on real estate and recreation. We need to create incentives to bring small businesses into our community that will have little or no impact on our environment.Q: What is your biggest accomplishment in the political realm?A: SmokeFree Summit. (I could list about 50.)

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