Updated 5:30 p.m. – New Gov. John Hickenlooper today named his running mate, Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia, to also be executive director of the Department of Higher Education.

Some in higher ed circles had speculated that Hickenlooper would do something like that with Garcia. It’s been widely expected that Garcia would fill a prominent education role in the new administration, as Lt. Gov. Barbara O’Brien has done for Gov. Bill Ritter. But, she had only one title.

“Joe Garcia is in a unique position to wear two hats in state government,” Hickenlooper said in a statement. “He is a known leader with tremendous expertise in education. He also understands the challenges facing higher education because he’s led a community college and a university. Allowing Garcia to serve in two roles will save money and serve the taxpayers of Colorado without compromising the work of the lieutenant governor’s office or the Department of Higher Education.”

The statement did add, “While it’s unclear whether legislation may be necessary, Hickenlooper is working with leaders in the General Assembly and the attorney general to clarify that the lieutenant governor can concurrently serve in a cabinet position if appointed and confirmed by the Senate.”

Garcia has been president of Colorado State University-Pueblo and of Pikes Peak Community College. He held a cabinet job – director of the Department of Regulatory Agencies – during the administration of Democratic Gov. Roy Romer.

The director of DHE supervises a department that has various regulatory, data-gathering and promotional duties, and he also serves as the chief staff person for the Colorado Commission on Higher Education, whose members are appointed by the governor. While the commission has some regulatory powers, such as approving tuition plans, Colorado’s highly decentralized higher ed system gives broad powers and independence to institutional presidents and boards of trustees.

The agency has been somewhat of a revolving door in recent years. Ritter had two higher ed directors – David Skaggs and Rico Munn – and there also was rapid turnover in the latter part of Republican Gov. Bill Owens’ administration.

The citizens’ panel that drafted the recent higher ed strategic plan debated the issue of whether the director should be appointed by the governor or by the commission (which had that power in the past). But, the panel settled on a recommendation that the director be nominated by the governor after consultation with the commission.

Daily Churn logoWhat’s churning:

The political new year kicks off this week with the inauguration of new Gov. John Hickenlooper, the opening of the 2011 legislative session, the swearing in of three State Board of Education members and Hickenlooper’s first State of the State speech.

Also on tap – the State Council for Educator Effectiveness opens a crucial three-day set of meetings.

TUESDAY

Hickelooper and Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia will be inaugurated during ceremonies starting at 10 a.m. at the Capitol.

WEDNESDAY

The State Board of Education gathers at 8:15 a.m. for the swearing in of three members for new terms, including returning member Angelika Schroeder, D-2nd District, and newcomer Republicans Paul Lundeen of the 5th District and Debora Scheffel of the 6th.

The board has a full day of work scheduled, including three rule-making hearings and a charter appeal case, Janus International Academy vs. Denver Public Schools. The board also meets Thursday. Agenda

The 2011 session of the Colorado General Assembly kicks off at 10 a.m. with opening ceremonies and speechifying in both the House and Senate chambers.

THURSDAY

The State Council for Educator Effectiveness starts a three-day retreat at 8 a.m. The group is expected to start shaping up the recommendations it will make to SBE next spring. The sessions will be in the Ruffatto Hall Community Board Room at the University of Denver.

Hickenlooper will deliver his first State of the State speech to a joint session of the legislature, starting at 11 a.m. in the House chambers.

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