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Kaiser exec. nominated as lieutenant governor

Posted: 11:39 AM, Mar 23, 2016
Updated: 2016-03-23 22:20:09-04

Gov. John Hickenlooper is nominating Donna Lynne to serve as Lieutenant Governor.

Current Lt. Gov. J oe Garcia announced last November that he is leaving his job to become president of Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education. His last day will be April 29.

Lynne is currently the executive vice president of the Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, Inc. and Kaiser Foundation Hospitals.

"This is a hard decision for me, to leave that family that I've been part of for 11 years, but the challenge that the Governor laid at me feet, is awesome," said Lynne.

"Donna Lynne is uniquely qualified to take on this role," said Hickenlooper. "Her background in successfully running large complex organizations - in both the private and public sector - and her wisdom and experience in operations, will enhance the lieutenant governor’s role to make even more of an impact on programs across the state."

The governor's office said Lynne spent 20 years in New York City government including a job in the New York City Mayor’s Office as Director of the Office of Operations where she helped improve service delivery, facilitated interagency projects including technology initiatives and management oversight.

The Colorado General Assembly will have to confirm the Governor's choice.

"I have climbed all the fourteeners, so I have been in every corner of this state, and slept in the dirt and slept in my car," said Lynne.

If she's confirmed, she will hold the second highest position in the state. The Governor was asked if he planned on completing his second term, which ends in January 2019.

"As I have said frequently, if I were offered something in Washington, I certainly would look at it," said Hickenlooper. "Make sure that my son, Teddy, doesn't hear this, but if a lightning bolt came down and struck me dead, I think Donna Lynne has the background and the skills, she could certainly be Governor from 'day one.'"

When asked if she now plans to run for Governor in two years, Lynne said, "No."

The salary for Lieutenant Governor is $68,500.

As Lieutenant Governor, Garcia actually had two jobs. In addition to being second in command, he also served as Executive Director for Dept. of Higher Education for Colorado.

Hickenlooper's office said a search is underway for a new Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Higher Education Department.

The Governor's office said Lynne would also have two jobs. In addition to serving as Lieutenant Governor, she will also serve as Chief Operating Officer to direct state operations.

Hickenlooper said at least six other states; Arizona, Illinois, Nebraska, New York, Tennessee and Vermont also have state COOs.

Lynne has to be confirmed by both the House and Senate. The Senate has an 18-17 Republican advantage. In a statement about her nomination, Senate President Bill Cadman made it sound like that wouldn't be a problem.

"As a longtime community leader and activist, she certainly would bring valuable experience and perspective to the job, if confirmed. And at a time when health care is such a significant focus of public concern for government, business and individuals, hopefully she'll be just what the doctor ordered," said Cadman.

Many Democratic state lawmakers stood behind the Governor during his announcement, but there were no Republicans, although Sen. Larry Crowder, R-Alamosa, did show up during the news conference and stood behind the media.

"Well, there's a snowstorm," said Hickenlooper about the lack of Republicans present. "We'll persuade everyone."

The Governor's office scheduled the 11:30 a.m., news conference a little after 9 a.m., after many school districts and some businesses had made the decision to close.

Denver7 received email from state employees asking us to asking the Governor why state offices were not closed.

As COO, that decision would fall to Lynne.

"I worked for four mayors and one of my jobs, in addition to trying to make the city more efficient and effective, was emergency management. One of my jobs was managing snowstorms, so when I woke up this morning, all I could think of was, 'Please, my assignment won't start until May, and so the snow needs to hold off,'" said Lynne. "I'm not on the payroll and so I'm going to defer it to the Governor."

The Governor said his chief of staff was in contact with the different state departments since about 4 a.m. looking at conditions.

"We might send people home early, but at that point the decision was made because you have to make these decisions way out ahead, that we would err on the side of -- recognizing that people might take a while to get in, but that we would try to get a full day of work out of our workforce," said Hickenlooper. "This storm is not the same all over the state, so then you get into the complications of if you're going to try and take a day off of work for the state, how do you do that in an equitable way? We want government to be efficient and effective and equitable."

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