Rep. Al White bids adieu to Grand County
November 16, 2008
As Grand County escorts a new state representative to the Capitol, Randy Baumgardner of Hot Sulphur Springs, it sends off Rep. Al White of Winter Park, who served 8 years in the Colorado House.
But he’s not hanging up his hat quite yet.
On Nov. 4, White beat Democratic opponent Ken Brenner for State Senate District 8, which includes Moffat, Rio Blanco, Garfield, Eagle, Routt and Jackson counties.
In effect, he traded Grand County for Eagle County, which he represented for two years when he entered the political arena in 2000.
At the time, the district was included Grand and three immediate neighbors, Routt, Jackson and Eagle. In 2002, the house district map changed and White found himself representing a much wider region ” from the edge of East Grand, to the Wyoming and Utah borders, to as far south as Garfield County.
Now a Hayden resident in Routt County with wife Jean, White’s newly adopted Senate district is “not new territory for me,” he said.
It is, however, diverse.
“Everything from ranchers in the Jackson area to billionaires in Beaver Creek,” White said.
With his new district, challenges are as stacked as the topography ” from polarizing views regarding energy policy in the Piceance Basin, to coal mining industries in Moffat and Routt counties.
Still a homeowner in Fraser, White declined to run for Senate District 16 representing Grand County, a district that includes Front Range Boulder and Gilpin counties.
“It didn’t seem to make much sense to me to try and introduce myself to all of those new people, try and understand all of their issues, as opposed to running in a senate district where I already have represented most or all of the district and know the people and know most of the issues,” he said.
His office in Denver will be the same, even his pay the same. To White, serving in the Senate is no different than the House, other than the fact that one has fewer colleagues in the Senate.
Already at work, White started last Wednesday on the Joint Budget Committee, made up of seniority players.
White considers his greatest legislative achievement delivering a flood of tourism marketing dollars to Colorado, and continuing that success is something he hopes to carry into the Senate.
“He is one of the few candidates the chamber has endorsed,” said Winter Park Chamber Executive Catherine Ross.
White-sponsored 2006 legislation set aside $20 million annually to market tourism.
“The economy is looking bleak and we need to be marketing our wares now more than ever,” White said.
In the program’s first year in 2007, $10 million was spent on marketing efforts, both nationally and internationally.
“A $10 million marketing effort produced $2 billion in our economy that would not have happened had we not spent those dollars,” White said, “so I think it’s really critical, especially in this difficult economic time, that we stay in the tourism market aggressively and consistently.”
White also has legislated ways to bring about affordable housing to mountain resort communities, increase funding for teachers, and help usher in a Colorado No-Call list to stave off annoying telemarketers.
“I think that he did a really good job of representing the area,” said former Winter Park mayor Nick Teverbaugh. “I think he was responsive to the mountain communities and to Grand County in particular while he was in the House. I was glad to hear he’d won. He still is representing western Colorado and western communities.”
White moved to Grand County from Illinois in 1972 for the same reason many do: skiing. For 25 years, he and Jean had owned businesses in Winter Park, namely the Viking Lodge and two ski shops. During his time in Winter Park, White served on the Fraser Valley Recreation District and the Grand County Water and Sanitation District boards.
Years prior he’d studied political science at Western Illinois University, was later based in Germany during service in the Army, then attended the University of Colorado – Boulder.
In the Legislature, White has worked to protect West Slope water while serving on the Water Resources Review Committee, which he created.
“Its job is to consider water-related legislation and refer it to the whole body of Legislature,” White said.
As a state senator starting Jan. 7 when the assembly reconvenes, White hopes to be a continuing member on the committee by filling a seat soon to be vacated.
“It’s a great way to safeguard the water in Western Colorado,” he said.
“He’s a well-rounded legislator,” Ross said, who added that White works on the issues as an elected official of the people, not as a puppet of his party.
“I think he has been willing to work with both Democrats and Republicans in getting the legislation passed, something I think is important in going ahead,” Teverbaugh said.
During recent campaigning, White said he drove 1,000 miles a week.
“Of course, that was when gas was $4.40 over in Garfield County and everywhere else it was fairly expensive,” he said.
With such large House and Senate districts in Northwestern Colorado, White said one of his biggest challenges will be (and has been) visiting all corners of his constituency.
“We know that even though his official address is not Winter Park or Fraser anymore, we know in his heart he’s still here,” Ross said.
” Tonya Bina can be reached at 887-3334 ext. 19603 or e-mail