Rippy for 61st District |

Rippy for 61st District

When Gregg Rippy replaced the venerable Russell George as state representative two years ago, it was hard not to feel a little sympathy for the Glenwood Springs Republican and newcomer to political office.

George, of Rifle, had soared to Speaker of the House of Representatives before succumbing to term limits, and in that time won statewide acclaim for bringing intelligence, level-headedness and bipartisan consensus-building to the House.

How could anyone hope to fill the void left by George in the 57th District? A wise successor would seek to emulate some of George’s best qualities while carving out a legislative style that takes advantage of his own assets. So Rippy has done, quickly establishing himself as another highly competent Garfield County lawmaker willing to dig deep for solutions and build coalitions across political and geographic boundaries, while always keeping Western Slope interests high in mind.

He has worked hard to continue the tradition of capable state representation from our region, and earns this newspaper’s endorsement for election in the 61st District race.

Due to reapportionment, the district Rippy is serving changed substantially in shape and nature from the one he was elected to in 2000. The 57th District no longer includes eastern Garfield County, where Rippy lives. Instead, Aspen, Crested Butte, Gunnison and Lake City are now part of his domain.

But the issues that are of concern to western Coloradans remain the same. On matters such as water, resort-town impacts and health care, Rippy continues to carry the torch for his constituents.

He gamely picked up the battle started by George to get a bill passed to address the social service and other costs resort areas create for bedroom communities in other counties, though he ended up having no more success than George did.

Rippy has worked hard to come up to speed on the state’s budget, at a time when a budget crisis has made such knowledge acutely important. He serves on the House Appropriations Committee, and the same mind for fiscal matters that has served him in well in business has helped him deal with the intricacies of state funding.

With so much of the budget being nondiscretionary, it’s important for a lawmaker to know where options do exist, and where creativity can be applied to fund important programs. The effort Rippy is currently undertaking to restore funding for Garfield Youth Services’ youth diversion program, possibly through energy impact funds, is testament to his emerging budgetary adroitness.

If re-elected, Rippy also plans to pursue water legislation aimed at better protecting basins of origin from diversions, long a sore point for western Colorado.

Rippy faces quality competition for the 61st District seat. Democrat Rick Davis, also of Glenwood Springs, has proven his abilities as a City Council member and has been a quick study of the pressing state issues. Abba Krieger, a Carbondale resident representing the Natural Law Party, brings fresh and intriguing new ideas to the table, particularly in the arena of promoting preventive health and diet practices as mean of reducing health care costs.

But to match up with Rippy, these contenders would have to spend two years in the legislature, eagerly pursuing a hands-on education as Rippy has.

While Davis has striven to portray Rippy as a more conservative Republican with positions outside the mainstream, we believe that by and large, the incumbent has proven to be thoughtful and moderate in his approach. He is willing to put the greater good ahead of narrow interests, and does not always feel bound to toe his party’s line.

We look forward to watching him emerge even further from Russ George’s shadow, and cast an even larger shadow of his own as he continues to increase his stature as a Colorado lawmaker in the best Western Slope tradition.

– Post Independent Editorial Board

Members of the Post Independent Editorial Board are Publisher Valerie Smith, Managing Editor Heather McGregor and News Editor Dennis Webb.

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