Senator Jim Isgar (D-Hesperus) announced Tuesday he is leaving the Colorado Senate to join the U.S. Department of Agriculture as Colorado State Director for Rural Development.
“After many years working for Colorado, I’m excited at the opportunity to continue that work at the U.S. Department of Agriculture,” said Isgar in a Tuesday press release. “As a resident of a rural area these issues touch me very deeply. I’m happy that I will be able to continue to work for Colorado, rebuild and revitalize our rural economy, and improve the lives of every American every day. I want to maintain the vitality of rural America — that’s where the strength of this country has always been and that’s where our strength will continue to be.”
“I’m so proud of Senator Isgar and his new position in the Department of Agriculture,” said Senate President Brandon Shaffer (D-Longmont). “With the loss of Senator Isgar we are losing a great mind, a wonderful representative of the people, and an expert in many areas of state government, including water issues. While we are happy for his new endeavors, he will be greatly missed in the Senate.”
Isgar served as chair of the Agriculture Committee on Agriculture, chaired the Permanent Legislative Water Review Committee, and was regarded as the Capitol’s senior authority on water issues. Isgar’s term was up in 2010.
In a Tuesday phone conversation, Isgar said his new office will be in Lakewood, Colo., and he considers his assignment “worthwhile, with a lot of opportunities. This job is important, having to do with funding for rural communities. This kind of opportunity doesn’t come around that often.”
Isgar said he expects to begin work with the USDA some time around July 20.
“Jim Isgar will be an important advocate on behalf of rural communities throughout the state and help administer the valuable programs and services provided by the USDA that can enhance their economic success,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in the Tuesday release.
Rural Development administers and manages over 40 housing, business, and community infrastructure and facility programs as laid out by Congress through a network of 6,100 employees located in 500 national, state and local offices. These programs are designed to improve the economic stability of rural communities, businesses, residents, farmers and ranchers and improve the quality of life in rural America. Rural Development has an existing portfolio of over $114 billion in loans and loan guarantees.
The process to replace Isgar in the Senate will be the same one that initially put him there. A Vacancy Committee will be convened, with Democrats representing the eight counties in Senate District 6 seated on the committee. Isgar noted that representation on the committee has been modified to reflect populations in those counties.
The committee, chaired by San Juan County Treasurer Bev Rich, will most likely meet in Silverton. A firm date for the meeting has not been set, nor has a slate of candidates been announced.
The committee has 30 days following Isgar’s resignation to fill the vacancy or the decision passes to Gov. Bill Ritter.
Local Democratic Party officers could not be reached, or did not return calls, as The SUN made efforts to learn if plans have been made concerning Archuleta County participation on the Vacancy Committee.