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George not seeking AG appointment

Dennis Webb
Post Independent Staff

Russ George is staying put.

The Rifle Republican and director of the state Department of Natural Resources said Friday he has asked Gov. Bill Owens not to consider appointing him to the vacant Colorado attorney general position.

Ken Salazar is leaving that office after being elected in November to the U.S. Senate.

George said the timing wasn’t right for him to seek appointment as attorney general.

“It’s very simply because I’m not willing to give up the good job I have,” he said.

“We can’t always choose our timing about opportunities, which makes it difficult.”

George has been the head of DNR for less than a year.

“I just have really gotten started and it’s the work I like to do,” he said.

He said he also enjoys working for Owens, and this is his only chance to do so. Owens is limited to two terms in office, and his second term ends at the end of 2006.

“I’ve got two years left and lots of stuff in motion,” said George.

The attorney general is not part of Owens’ cabinet, but holds a separate statewide office, and to remain in the seat the person appointed would have to seek election.

George’s name has come up in speculation about prospective appointees to the position, but he had declined comment until Friday. He said he changed his mind after Salazar wrote Owens to recommend some candidates, and George’s name wasn’t on the list. That prompted a Denver journalist to press him about the matter.

“There’s been enough talk about it that it does make sense for me to say exactly where I am,” he said.

George said he’s grateful that people thought he would do well in the job.

He said he has thought over the years about the possibility of running for attorney general.

“It would be a nice peak for a lawyer who cares about the law,” he said.

George had long practiced law in Rifle before entering politics. He served in the Colorado House of Representatives during much of the 1990s, eventually rising to become speaker, the top leadership position in the House.

He then served as director of the Division of Wildlife, a DNR agency, before being appointed to head the DNR.

Owens’ spokesman, Dan Hopkins, said Friday that he learned only a few days earlier that George had asked the governor not to consider him for the attorney general opening.

“There is no question that Russ George would do a great job at just about anything he chose to do,” Hopkins said.

That said, he believes Owens is fortunate in some ways that George decided to stay on as head of the DNR.

“It’s important to have stability at the department,” Hopkins said.

Contact Dennis Webb: 945-8515, ext. 516

dwebb@postindependent.com


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