Left Hand Valley Courier - All Local, All The Time

By Jesse Murphy

Hullinghorst retires from state house


Craig F. Walker

Courtesy Photo

Former Colorado Speaker of the House and Boulder County resident Dickey Lee Hullinghorst has officially hung her hat as a state legislator.

She finished off her eight year term limit per state statute, and will now retire back to the private sector.

“I’ve served all of my four terms,” Hullinghorst said. “I’m kind of glad actually. Eight years, for me at least, was plenty. It was great, I enjoyed it. I had been in the leadership since my second term. I was caucus whip, then the majority leader and then the speaker.

“I considered it a real honor and a privilege. One, to serve the constituents of District 10 and two, to serve as a leader in our legislature. It was highly stressful, I will say, and me being at retirement age anyway, there were times that I got very tired. But it was also energizing. The causes we worked on were very important and I feel good about my time there.”

Hullinghorst served as a volunteer and political activist for many years, and became the first female chair of the Boulder Democratic Party, serving that role from 1975 until 1979.

“Shortly thereafter I had the benefit of not working while my daughter was growing up,” Hullinghorst said. “I had that interest in involvement for many years.”

Their family has lived in the Gunbarrel Estates neighborhood for 47 years, and at some point she was asked to apply for the Colorado Open Space Council (now called Conservation Colorado), an umbrella environmental organization for the state.

“I did that for about two sessions and it was very interesting,” Hullinghorst said. “It didn’t pay much, but it was very educational. I had been involved in politics, but not like that.”

She was then recruited to work for the organization Colorado Forum, a non-partisan group that has members in various aspects of society.

“It was a tremendous learning experience for me,” Hullinghorst said. “Being a very liberal democrat and environmentalist all of my life, I got a good perspective of folks who often are on the opposite side of those kinds of issues.

“So I found that we had more in common than I thought we did. That helped helped me throughout my political career because I began to understand how to work with folks who differ from you, but have common goals. That helped me immensely as speaker and in the leadership.”

She then worked for county commissioners as an inter-governmental relations director, working with municipalities, state and federal governments to find common ground and solve issues.

“That was really my major career,” Hullinghorst said. “I did that for 23 years. I retired in 2007, so it was just in time to run for the legislature.”

Hullinghorst said that she felt like running for office was the right thing to do.

“I was going to retire, but it sounded like fun and it was,” Hullinghorst said. “I was able to use the expertise and contacts I had built over the years. It worked out very nicely. I’m very happy I did it, and I feel honored and privileged to have the opportunity. Now I’m really happy I’m retired.”

As for her career, she said being Speaker was her highest point.

“I’m most proud of being a legislator and being Speaker of the House,” Hullinghorst said. “It’s the culmination of a lot of years of work, and I’m very proud of that.”

But she also had help, and always strove to make the state house work as a team.

“I would stress that a lot of things you don’t do by yourself,” Hullinghorst said. “I had a lot of assistance from people as speaker. It was a good team effort, and that’s the way it is in the legislature.”

With actual legislation and accomplishments during her time in office, she considers changes to voting laws to be a big achievement.

“The thing I’m most proud of is being the prime sponsor of the elections modification and access law that moved Colorado forward,” Hullinghorst said. “We’ve had tremendous increase in our (voter) turnout because of it.”

Same-day registration was enacted in 2013, but it did not come without some push back from the other side of the aisle.

“Republicans thought we were doing it because we wanted to win elections,” Hullinghorst said. “At that time there was a thought that the government was trying to suppress voters. We wanted to make sure we had a really strong position in Colorado. I think we did that, and a lot of states are using us as a model for their election system, I’m very proud of that.”

Since her retirement, she has had requests to serve on various boards and commissions.

“I tell people to give me six months or a year to relax and make sure my health is ok and all that,” Hullinghorst said. “I’m enjoying that time, my husband and I are traveling, doing things we’ve never been able to do.”

With the current state of national politics, Hullinghorst said that she is just trying to ignore it for now.

“I’m basically staying away from the news because it’s very disheartening to me,” Hullinghorst said. “There is not much I can do about it right now, but I will continue to express my views as a citizen. That’s about as good as I can do, and I’m going to do it from a retired perspective.”

On the state level, she believes that the work of her and fellow legislators has Colorado in a good spot.

“I think we have a strong local government structure in Colorado,” Hullinghorst said. “A lot of people tend to look at congress for being so stagnant in everything it does. That doesn’t follow through to the state legislature. We have policy differences, but we work together — we can pass a balanced budget. We find ways to address the significant issues in Colorado.”

Some of those issues include infrastructure and schools, which were always at the front of her mind throughout her career.

“I have a feeling — and I’m always hopeful and optimistic — that in Colorado we will solve those problems,” Hullinghorst said. “It sure would help at this point to get a little help from the (federal government), but we don’t get much.”

Looking forward, she had some advice to give young politicians and those who aspire to serve their state.

“One of the things that I say to folks on the democratic side of things is to not get discouraged,” Hullinghorst said. “There are a lot of republicans who feel the same way too I’m sure. I’ve seen us go through a lot of crises in my time, but we will find a way to make this country work.

“It’s the strength of our constitution and our democracy will carry us through regardless. Hang in there. Be optimistic because we have a lot of resources to use, one of the most important is our people. We need to make sure young people stay involved, that they’re educated about the importance of their involvement and leave it to them. Fight for what you think is right, that’s your responsibility as a citizen of this country.”


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