Colorado voters on Tuesday chose two new members of the University of Colorado Board of Regents and re-elected one incumbent.
First-time candidates Lesley Smith and Chance Hill won their races, as did Regent Glen Gallegos. They’ll begin serving six-year terms in January, when they’re sworn in.
The political party split on the nine-member board will remain 5-4 in favor of the Republicans.
The arrival of Smith will mark the first time that women have held five seats on the board.
Regent Glen Gallegos, R-Grand Junction, returns to his seat representing the 3rd District. He garnered 147,659 votes, or 51.3 percent, against challenger Alvin Rivera, a Pueblo Democrat (123,896 votes, or 43.1 percent). Election totals are those as reported Wednesday by the Secretary of State.
“I’m happy it’s over and I’m glad I won, because there are things I want to continue to accomplish,” Gallegos said. “I think that we have a pretty clear agenda: We want to hire the best president we can. We’ve also got some metrics we’ve been working on. If we are diligent about spreading the word of those metrics to the four campuses, we can get a long way with what we’re doing for students and where we want the university to be in the next five to 10 years.”
Gallegos worked for 26 years as a teacher, coach, principal and executive director of instruction for Eagle and Mesa County school districts. He retired in 1997 and joined the family construction business, The Gallegos Corp., as president of operations, overseeing multiple projects and a workforce of up to 1,000.
He said his 2012 regents campaign and the one just ended both were demanding in terms of travel and fundraising.
“It’s a real journey, you know. In my case, it’s a congressional district that’s the third-largest in the United States,” he said. “In the first campaign, it was all new to me. This time, it was equally as long and as tedious. Anyone who has done this knows that it’s extremely hard work.”
In her statewide campaign, Lesley Smith, D-Boulder, said she’d bring much-needed faculty perspective to the board. She succeeds Regent Stephen Ludwig, D-Denver, who is completing his second term.
Smith arrived at CU Boulder and the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Studies (CIRES) in 1989 and worked 29 years as an educator and research scientist. She retired in April. In the at-large race, she received 933,388 votes, or 50.2 percent; Ken Montera, a Colorado Springs Republican, received 842,125 votes, or 45.3 percent.
“I’m proud that I’ve been elected by the voters of Colorado to be their next CU regent at large,” Smith said. “I had learned that if I got elected, it would be the first time the board had a majority of women. When I mentioned that on the campaign trail, there was a lot of excitement from the women out there. I’m certainly looking forward to working with my fellow regents and hiring the next CU president. I’m hoping we can work together in a collaborative manner.”
Smith, who now has a son who attends CU Boulder, said she heard from many community members during her campaign who are concerned about affordability at CU.
“I had not realized that the Boulder campus is the only one that has guaranteed tuition and has dropped class fees,” she said. “I would like to see if there’s some way we can get those two initiatives across all the campuses. I view that as an equity issue. I know finances are tight, so I’m not sure how we do that, but it’s worth exploring.”
Chance Hill, R-Colorado Springs, will succeed Regent Kyle Hybl, R-Colorado Springs, who, like Ludwig, was term limited after serving on the board for 12 years. In District 5, Hill received 142,211 votes, or 62.5 percent, against Tony Wolusky, a Colorado Springs Democrat, who had 85,298 votes, or 37.5 percent.
“As a CU regent starting in January, my focus will remain on promoting intellectual diversity and free speech, reducing needless costs and continuing the upward trajectory of all four CU campuses,” Hill said. “I look forward to working with fellow regents, administrators, faculty, boosters, staff and students to gradually move the needle in a positive direction on all those issues and others.”
Hill called his two years of campaigning “a difficult process – as it should be.”
“I certainly learned a lot along the way,” he said. “I recognize that, like any new regent, I’ll have a lot to learn. I like to think I’m more prepared now after a really long, intense campaign than I was before this all began.”
A Colorado Springs employment attorney, Hill previously served as an officer and analyst with the CIA and in the Navy, which included a one-year deployment to Iraq.
Hill called the board’s task of appointing the successor to President Bruce Benson “an incredibly important decision.”
“As a former military guy, I recognize that leadership and management experience really matters, especially in setting the tone of an organization,” he said. “I look forward to casting my vote for someone who will continue to put the CU system on a glide path to continued success in the years and decades to come.”