Routt Democrat vows ‘objective’ approach |

Routt Democrat vows ‘objective’ approach

Diane Mitsch Bush

EDWARDS, Colorado – Diane Mitsch Bush was supposed to be on a “listening tour” through Eagle County Wednesday. But no one came to a low-key event in Edwards, so she ended up talking about herself and what she’d like to accomplish in the Colorado Legislature.

Mitsch Bush, a Steamboat Springs resident and Routt County Commissioner, this week announced she would seek election to the Colorado House of Representatives in the newly drawn House District 26, which includes Routt and Eagle counties. Mitsch Bush, a Democrat, is the first candidate to announce her candidacy for the seat.

Mitsch Bush first moved to Steamboat in 1976 – “for a ski season.” She and her husband moved there full-time in 1982, after she landed a professor’s job at Colorado State University in Fort Collins. Her involvement in community affairs included analyzing the mountain of technical reports about the proposed Catamount ski area south of Steamboat for area ranchers opposed to the project.

Before her election to the county commission in 2006, Mitsch Bush spent a decade on the Routt County Planning Commission.

Now, Mitsch Bush says she wants to bring her analytical skills to the Legislature, where she believes she can bring an “objective” approach to proposed legislation.

As a longtime county commissioner, Mitsch Bush said she’s already familiar with how things work in Denver, and which ideas need to be nurtured, or squashed.

That often means new skirmishes in the never-ending battle between Front Range water districts and the Western Slope, where most of the state’s water originates. There’s also a recurring effort in the Legislature to cut the state’s tax on jet fuel. That tax represents a significant source of revenue for both counties, Mitsch Bush said, and that revenue needs to be protected.

Besides airports, Routt and Eagle counties also share resort economies, of course, as well as what she called “state of the art” medical facilities. All that, she said, depends on preserving the natural environment.

“Will young professionals want to move here if we don’t have that?” she said.

But getting anything accomplished in Denver means Mitsch Bush – or whoever is elected to the District 26 seat – will have to work with other Western Slope representatives and, particularly, legislators from the Eastern Slope, who hold far superior numbers at the state Capitol.

Mitsch Bush said she’s been able to work with members of both parties as a county commissioner – she serves on the board with a Republican and another Democrat. She said she also works with members of both parties as a member of Routt County’s regional transportation planning district.

Getting support from Eastern Slope representatives could be a tougher trick, especially if those representatives represent counties that want Western Slope water or other resources.

To do that, she said, she thinks Gov. John Hickenlooper has the right idea of presenting regional problems in a broader context.

Hickenlooper has said that people who live on the Eastern Slope use water on their lawns, but also appreciate mountain streams and lakes.

“You have to make the value proposition that it’s in all our interests to work together,” she said.

Ultimately, though, Mitsch Bush said legislators can only be truly effective if they remember who they work for. She said she has framed on the wall of her commissioner’s office an excerpt from the Colorado Constitution that reads, in part, “All political power originates with the people.”

“We work for the people,” she said. “We need to listen to them.”

Business Editor Scott N. Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930 or

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