UPDATE: OLLS writes a wonderful story about Debbie Haskins.
Tributes continue to pour in for Debbie Haskins, one of the many behind-the-scenes players who provide stability at the Colorado Legislature, a place where lawmakers make their mark and then move on.
Haskins became an entry-level attorney for the Office of Legislative Legal Services in 1983 and worked her way up to assistant director. She died Saturday, Oct. 7.
Haskins had appointments scheduled for the week of Oct. 9 to work on legislation for the 2018 session.
Her husband, Steve, said her heart “just stopped.”
“It was very painless and it was quick,” he said. “She turned 60 in April. We had a big party for her. We just went on a big trip to France and Italy last May so that was good.”
A celebration of Debbie Haskins’ life is planned for 2 p.m. this Saturday, Oct. 21, at First Plymouth Congregational Church, 3501 S. Colorado Blvd., in Cherry Hills Village.
“One of the hardest working people I’ve ever known,” former state Sen. Linda Newell tweeted after Haskins’ death. “Her level of detail literally saved kids’ lives in my bills. Beautiful spirit.”
News of Haskins’ death stunned her family, friends and the Capitol community, which is its own kind of family.
“Not many people outside the Capitol know who Debbie Haskins is, but you can bet that over the past 34 years, not a single piece of important Colorado legislation got passed without Debbie’s eyes on it,” Senate Minority Leader Lucia Guzman said in a statement.
“She was one of the important conductors who made sure the trains ran on time, and it was thanks to her that new legislators and staffers could easily learn how the law-making process works.”
Two days after Haskins’ death, another legislative staffer died. Dan Chapman worked for the Colorado Legislative Council from 1978 until he retired in 2008. He was diagnosed with ALS, also called Lou Gehrig’s disease, in 2012.
Former Senate President Bill Cadman praised Chapman on his Facebook page.
“Dan set THE standard for professionalism in the Colorado General Assembly for 30 years,” Cadman wrote. “He served our great institution and the state of Colorado with honor and distinction. Dan’s pleasant demeanor was inviting and his exceptional knowledge was empowering to all of us who were fortunate enough to work with him.”
Chapman’s memorial service is set 1 p.m. Sunday Oct. 29 at Horan & McConaty Funeral Home, 1091 S. Colorado Blvd., in Denver.
The offices for “ledge council” and Legal Services are both in the Capitol basement, as was the office for the Rocky Mountain News’ Capitol bureau. I covered the legislature on and off for some 15 years, first for the Rocky and then for The Denver Post, and Chapman and Haskins were familiar faces.
At the Office of Legislative Legal Services, “everyone is still is waiting for Debbie to walk through the door,” director Sharon Eubanks said.
“We are all struggling with this sudden loss,” she said. “We are going to miss her and her laugh. She was an excellent legislative attorney and hard worker and smart lady, but more than that she was such a dear heart.”
Deanna Maiolo, with the Colorado Secretary of State’s office, worked with Haskins in developing an online rules project and said she called the legislative staffer whenever she had a question.
“She was so sweet and so helpful,” Maiolo said. “I’m very sad to hear this.”
Deborah Farrall met her husband Steve Haskins when they attended Doane College in Crete, Neb. After she graduated from the University of Nebraska with a law degree in 1982 the couple move to Colorado, where he had lived since he was 9. The Haskins have two grown daughters, Elizabeth, 28, and Emily, 24.
Here’s some of what others said about Haskins on their social media accounts:
Former Speaker Mark Ferrandino: “Such a huge loss. She was so amazing to work with.”
Sen. Larry Crowder, R-Alamosa: “What a neat lady and gentle soul. She will be missed.”
Lobbyist Amber Valdez: “So sad. She had a great heart.”
Rep. Chris Kennedy, D-Lakewood: “Debbie was wonderful. She worked with me on the most challenging bill I carried this session and was amazing.”
Colorado Senate GOP: “We all miss Debbie. She was a dedicated, diligent, trusted, highly respected part of the professional staff here at #COleg.”
Rep. Dafna Michaelson Jenet, D-Commerce City: “Devastating. A consummate professional with the warmest heart. She will be dearly missed.”