Categorized | Executive, Featured Stories

Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia Will Do Double Duty As Higher-Ed Chief


Incoming Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia will do double duty this year, acting as No. 2 to Gov. John Hickenlooper and also serving as head of the Colorado Commission on Higher Education.

Garcia, who will be inaugurated tomorrow, was most recently president of Colorado State University-Pueblo.

Hickenlooper, who made the appointment, said it’s unclear whether legislation will be required for Garcia to serve in both posts. The governor-elect is working with both the General Assembly and the Attorney General’s Office on that front.

“Higher education is critical to work force development,” Garcia said. “I am committed to making sure that we are ready to retain, expand and attract jobs to Colorado with a well-educated work force and we can’t achieve our goal of remaining competitive without high quality, affordable colleges and universities.”

The full press release follows.

Lt. Gov.-elect Joe Garcia named to lead the Colorado Department of Higher Education

DENVER ­— Monday,  Jan. 10, 2011 — Gov.-elect John Hickenlooper announced today Lt. Gov.-elect Joseph “Joe” Garcia will also serve as Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Higher Education.

“Joe Garcia is in a unique position to wear two hats in state government,” Hickenlooper said. “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. Joe will bring wisdom, experience and passion to the job.”

Garcia most recently worked as president of Colorado State University-Pueblo and energized the campus by considering nontraditional solutions to longstanding issues. While there, he helped the school overcome stagnant enrollment, a mediocre reputation and financial difficulties.

He also worked with local alumni and parents to raise private funds to bring back a football program that had been abandoned in 1984. The effort, coupled with several new student-oriented facilities to make the campus more attractive, contributed to a two-fold increase in freshman enrollment at the school.

“Higher education is critical to work force development,” Garcia said. “I am committed to making sure that we are ready to retain, expand and attract jobs to Colorado with a well-educated work force and we can’t achieve our goal of remaining competitive without high quality, affordable colleges and universities.”

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 would be serving in an unusual but not a unique role. His predecessor, Barbara O’Brien,  also focused on education by co-chairing, with Garcia and Bruce Benson, the P-20 Task Force. She also led the state’s effort to acquire Race to the Top funding and she was an active leader in education reform.

Garcia, however, would also take on the responsibility of running an executive branch agency along with his Lieutenant Governor duties. His experience in running an executive branch agency under former Gov. Roy Romer and his decade of service as the president of a community college and a state university makes him both uniquely qualified to take on the additional responsibilities and well-suited to fully and diligently perform the duties of both roles.

Before he worked at CSU-Pueblo, Garcia was president of the second-largest community college in Colorado, Pike’s Peak Community College. There, he oversaw three campuses that serve more than 16,000 students annually. He earlier worked for the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies as the Executive Director. In this capacity, he managed and maintained budgetary responsibility for such Colorado divisions as Banking, Financial Services, Real Estate, Insurance, Civil Rights, Securities, and Public Utilities Commission. Garcia was appointed by Romer.

Garcia has continuously participated in community and non-profit organizations throughout his professional career. These experiences taught him to find solutions, not by driving a partisan agenda but by working with all stakeholders to reach a common ground. He and his wife, Dr. Claire Garcia, became deeply involved in public education when their own children entered grade school in Colorado Springs. Garcia served in roles as varied as PTO President to Legal Counsel for the District 11 School Board.

Dr. Claire Garcia is a professor of English at Colorado College in Colorado Springs. She joined the school in 1989.

Born into a military family with deep roots in northern New Mexico, Garcia has lived in cities ranging from the Western United States to Western Europe. Garcia earned a business degree from the University of Colorado. He returned to Colorado after earning a juris doctorate from Harvard Law School because of the quality of life found here. An avid mountain biker and mountain climber in the summer and snowboarder in the winter, Garcia could not imagine calling anywhere else his home – and hopes to pass that tradition onto his children and grandchildren.


Garcia’s appointment to serve as the Executive Director of the Department of Higher Education has received widespread support from other campus leaders throughout the state:

Bob Schaffer, chairman of the Colorado State Board of Education

“Having Mr. Garcia serve in a dual role as Lt. Governor and Executive Director of CDHE is a very good idea. It wholly utilizes Mr. Garcia’s talents while establishing a direct and tight linkage between higher education and the Governor’s Office. The move clearly signals that higher education is a top state priority in an effective, efficient and economical way. I think it’s a great opportunity and I’m glad the governor-elect is taking advantage of this.”

Joe Blake, Chancellor of the Colorado State University System

“Having worked with Joe Garcia during his tenure as President of CSU-Pueblo, I can personally underscore his passion for hard work and commitment to higher education, particularly in the areas of access and affordability. Colorado and higher education are extremely fortunate to have Joe Garcia in place as the leading voice for higher education. Indeed, he a is great voice for Colorado.”

Bruce Benson, president of University of Colorado

“When Joe Garcia was announced as the candidate for Lieutenant Governor, I knew that he would also be the ideal choice to be the Executive Director for the Department of Higher Education. He has experience running campuses and he knows the challenges we face as our enrollments continue to grow while state funding has not kept pace. Joe Garcia, Lt. Gov. Barbara O’Brien, and I co-chaired the P-20 Council, so I know he has both a statewide perspective and a working knowledge of each institution’s unique role and mission and how we can work together to serve Colorado’s workforce needs. I am pleased that Joe Garcia was picked for this role, and I am excited for the future of higher education.”

Tim Foster, president of Mesa State College

“I believe Joe’s experience leading both CSU-Pueblo and Pikes Peak Community College gives him an appreciation of the importance of having accessible, affordable, high quality institutions in all regions of the state. His knowledge of state government and his collaborative nature are exactly what Colorado higher education needs today.”

Nancy McCallin, president of the Colorado Community College System

“I am delighted that Gov.-elect Hickenlooper chose Lt. Gov.-elect Joe Garcia as the next Executive Director for the Colorado Department of Higher Education. The Lieutenant Governor-elect brings a unique perspective to this job, having been the President at Pikes Peak Community College and the President of Colorado State University-Pueblo. He understands the needs of students in both the two-year and four-year colleges and has always placed the needs of students foremost in his decision-making. I look forward to working with Joe on important issues affecting Colorado higher education students, including transparency in transfer of courses between two-year and four-year colleges, affordability of higher education, and sustainability of higher education opportunities for Coloradans. I have known and worked with Joe for the last nine years and have a great deal of respect for his integrity and commitment to Colorado students.”

Jim Polsfut, chairman of the Colorado Commission on Higher Education

“In the past, the CCHE has worked extensively with Joe Garcia in his capacity as a campus CEO. I’m certainly looking forward to working with Joe Garcia in his new capacity, as Colorado faces the challenge of maintaining a high quality yet affordable system of public higher education in an environment of diminishing resources.”


About the Colorado Department of Higher Education

The Department coordinates policy and state resources for the state’s 28

public institutions, its private not for profit colleges, and its proprietary colleges, trade schools,

and bible colleges. The Department of Higher Education oversees one major federal loan

program and a 529 investment plan. The Department is divided into seven divisions: Colorado

Commission on Higher Education, College Assist,, CollegeInvest,

Colorado Historical Society, Colorado GEAR UP, and Division of Private Occupational Schools.

About Partners for Colorado

Partners for Colorado is organized as a 501(c)(4) nonprofit corporation created to engage a diverse group of people from all over Colorado; ensure a smooth hand-off from the Ritter administration to the Hickenlooper administration; review the current performance, challenges and opportunities of each major area of state government and develop recommendations for improving practices within these areas; provide recommendations to the incoming administration for specific executive and legislative actions that can be pursued during the administration’s first 100 days; and recruit and evaluate candidates.

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