The Colorado legislature convenes …

Rep. Pete Lee, D-Colorado Springs, Tom and Laurie Kennedy of Colorado Springs, parents of Rep. Chris Kennedy, D-Lakewood, and Secretary of State Wayne Williams. (SOS photo)
Rep. Pete Lee, D-Colorado Springs, Tom and Laurie Kennedy of Colorado Springs, parents of Rep. Chris Kennedy, D-Lakewood, and Secretary of State Wayne Williams. (SOS photo)

Today marks Day 3 of the Colorado Legislature, which convened on Wednesday amid plenty of excitement as new lawmakers were sworn in and the social calendar kicked off.

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams mingled with senators and representatives and their families before the opening ceremonies Wednesday.

When he met incoming Rep. Chris Kennedy, D-Lakewood, he realized he knew the lawmaker’s dad. Tom Kennedy and Williams both practiced law at the same time in Colorado Springs.

Williams on Thursday attended Gov.  John Hickenlooper’s seventh State of the State speech.

“We have 725 days left together, and as the late, great, Muhammad Ali said, ‘Don’t count the days, make the days count,'” Hickenlooper said.

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams and Senate President Kevin Grantham, R-Cañon City, on opening day. (SOS photo)
Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams and Senate President Kevin Grantham, R-Cañon City, on opening day. (SOS photo)

I loved covering the Colorado legislature, first for the Rocky Mountain News and then for The Denver Post (except for some of those hearings or debates that never seemed to end).

My first session was in 2000 where the hottest committee was House Finance. Every lawmaker, it seemed, had an idea of how to cut taxes  to reduce that billion-dollar surplus. Yes, billion with a B. Such heady times, followed by such hard times.

Eventually the excitement of the opening days leads to exhaustion, frustration and drama.

“Often referred to as Gold Dome High School, the Capitol is a petri dish for hurt feelings, dust-ups and behavior lawmakers often regret,” I wrote in 2011, after the latest blow up.

When May finally rolls around, there’s relief and a tinge of sadness. That building really is so special, the people who work there — the lawmakers, the lobbyists, the staff, the janitors, the reporters — they all make it hum.

Read moreThe Colorado legislature convenes …

SOS staffer faces long recovery after SUV driver hits his bicycle

Brad Lang, a staffer with the Colorado Secretary of State's Office, has been out of work since the driver of an SUV hit his bicycle. The beard is new as Lang can't shave himself. (Photo by Meg Lang)
Brad Lang, a staffer with the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office, has been out of work since the driver of an SUV hit his bicycle. The beard is new as Lang can’t shave himself. (Photo by Meg Lang)

By Julia Sunny

A bike helmet saved Brad Lang’s life.

The Colorado Secretary of State employee bikes to work on most summer days. On July 28, as he was pedaling westbound in the bike lane on East 23rd Avenue, a white SUV turning from 23rd on to Colorado Boulevard made a left-hand turn and plowed into Lang, who went flying and was knocked unconscious.

When Lang regained consciousness, the 37-year-old was in the emergency room at Denver Health Medical Center. He sustained multiple injuries, including a displaced and broken finger, a severely dislocated and broken elbow, two broken wrists, and a hairline fracture in one of his knees. He underwent surgery and spent 2½-days in the hospital.

“I feel very fortunate that my brain is in one piece and that I’m alive,” Lang said.

The impact was so strong it cracked his helmet in half but doctors expect him to make a full recovery.

Read moreSOS staffer faces long recovery after SUV driver hits his bicycle

Howard Gelt, 1943-2016: The go-to guy, the unsung force

Howard Gelt, in this family photo, circa 1988, died Friday after decades of making his mark on Denver and Colorado.
Howard Gelt, in this family photo, circa 1988, died Friday after decades of making a difference in Denver.

Howard Gelt, the kid who got kicked out of military school and continued a rebellious streak for years, left his mark on Colorado in a number of ways, from politics to transportation to the arts.

A pioneer for women’s rights, he helped found the Colorado NARAL chapter.

At 6-foot-5, he appeared like a giant when he crashed an IOC meeting in Japan in 1972 to let members know Colorado wasn’t that excited about hosting the Olympics.

He once faked a southern drawl to get an environmental bill through the North Carolina legislature.

Gelt died Friday after battling with esophageal cancer. Gelt was 73, although he always let out his trademark big grin when people commented he looked younger.

“He had such a will to live. He had so much grit,” his son, 35-year-old Ben Gelt, said Saturday. “He was a character and just a great guy.”

The family is holding a private funeral Wednesday, but will later announce a public memorial service for Gelt, who was chairman of the Colorado Democratic Party in the early 1990s. Before that, he was key to Dick Lamm and Roy Roy Romer’s elections for governor.

Gelt and his wife, Sandy Vanghagen Gelt, had just celebrated their 16th wedding anniversary on June 1.

His death comes the same week as Republican Bill Armstrong, a former U.S. senator from Colorado. “An era is coming to an end,” said Mary Alice Mandarich, a lobbyist who visited Gelt in the hospital last week.

The thing about Gelt, she said, is he had an enormous impact on Colorado but in a behind-the-scenes, give-someone-else-the-credit way.

That sentiment was echoed by Gelt’s former wife, Susan Barnes-Gelt, who served on the Denver City Council.

“Howard’s impact on the civic and political life of this city was as big as the great outdoors,” she said. “It was entirely unsung, but he was such a force.”

Read moreHoward Gelt, 1943-2016: The go-to guy, the unsung force

Secretary Wayne Williams addresses Greeley Centennial Rotary

Weld County Assessor Chris Woodruff, Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams and Greeley Mayor Tom Norton at the Greeley Centennial Rotary meeting last week. (SOS photo)
Weld County Assessor Chris Woodruff, Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams and Greeley Mayor Tom Norton at the Greeley Centennial Rotary meeting last week. (SOS photo)

By Keara Brosnan

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams wowed them at the Greeley Centennial Rotary club meeting — and that’s according to the guy who use to have “fun arguments” with Williams over transportation.

Greeley Mayor Tom Norton invited Williams to speak at the club’s meeting last Thursday.

Norton ran the Colorado Department of Transportation under former Gov. Bill Owens. Williams got plenty of transportation experience during his two terms as an El Paso County commissioner. He served on the Colorado State Transportation Advisory Committee, and chaired the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority.

“I joke I was head of CDOT as a punishment from Bill Owens,” Norton said at the Rotary meeting. The two served together in the state Senate, where Norton was Senate president.

As for Williams, Norton said, “We’ve had some fun arguments over transportation.”

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Secretary Wayne Williams: making inroads on transportation

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams, third from left, at Gov. John Hickenlooper's State of the State address on the House floor Thursday. To Williams' left is Robin Pringle, the governor's fiancé and Denver Mayor Michael Hancock. On his right is state Treasurer Walker Stapleton and Attorney General Cynthia Coffman. Williams stood and applauded when the governor said the state needs new money for transportation. (Photo by Evan Semón/Special to Secretary of State)
Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams, third from left, at Gov. John Hickenlooper’s State of the State address on the House floor Thursday. To Williams’ left is Robin Pringle, the governor’s fiancé and Denver Mayor Michael Hancock. On his right is state Treasurer Walker Stapleton and Attorney General Cynthia Coffman. Williams stood and applauded when the governor said the state needs new money for transportation. (Photo by Evan Semón/Special to Secretary of State)

By Lynn Bartels and Keara Brosnan

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams’ name is linked with elections but the Colorado Springs Republican’s expertise also includes transportation, which is obvious when he’s out and about.

At the Colorado Restaurant Association’s Blue Ribbon Reception Wednesday night, Williams reminisced with Rep. Diane Mitsch Bush, a Steamboat Springs Democrat. They were county commissioners when they served together on the Colorado State Transportation Advisory Committee. The same happened at a recent breakfast meeting with county clerks when Williams ran into  Tim Harris, the former chief engineer for the Colorado Department of Transportation.

“A fun thing about being SOS,” Williams said, “is I get to drive on a lot of the roads that I helped to get funding for.”

His knowledge on transportation came in handy Thursday when Gov. John Hickenlooper addressed the issue during his State of the State speech.

Read moreSecretary Wayne Williams: making inroads on transportation