Colorado ACEP 2023 Interview: Senator Barbara Kirkmeyer

Senator Barbara Kirkmeyer
Hometown: Fort Lupton, CO

Why did you choose to pursue a career in the legislature?

When I completed my term on the Weld County Commission, I was ready to retire. Then, the Democrat take-over of the state happened. Overnight, there were new laws attacking our jobs, our values, and way of life.  For starters, just think about the regulations on our energy jobs and workers.

I ran because I wanted to make a difference, not just make a point. I strive to do that every day with my service on the Joint Budget Committee and with every bill I introduce, advocate, or oppose.

What surprised you the most about working as a legislator?

I’ve come to the conclusion that too many elected officials are content with just occupying space and ensuring their party wins power or remains in control. That’s not me. I ran with a purpose and plan to govern.

What is the biggest similarity or difference in your career as a State Senator compared to working as a County Commissioner and within the Governor Bill Owens’ administration? 

The degree of partisan polarization has been the greatest difference. As a Weld County Commissioner, my colleagues and I all belonged to the same party. We worked well together. When I served in the Owens Administration, it was during a different era. There were partisan differences within the Legislature and between legislative leaders and the Governor’s Office, of course. But we worked together, largely without animosity, in the best interests of all Coloradans.

Today, partisan divisions run deep. The majority party ignores the minority, unless absolutely necessary. This results in a dynamic in which the minority (Republicans) resort to stalling tactics in order to make their voices heard.

If you could change one thing about healthcare in Colorado, what would it be?

Our healthcare infrastructure is fracturing. Expenses are outpacing reimbursements, chronically low Medicaid provider rates, workforce shortages and an overabundance of government interference is putting at risk high quality and accessible care.  We need to stop mandating and start listening to our healthcare providers better.

We need to get insurance companies and the government out of the middle of the patient-doctor relationship. To make this reform work, we need to equip consumers with more information and more price transparency. Employers, employees, and the government should be able to contribute to a portable plan, that people can take from one job to the next.

What do you consider your greatest achievement in the legislature?

My greatest achievement at the legislature was leading the way and insisting the State stop balancing the budget on the backs of students.  For the first time in nearly 14 years the State will follow the intent of the voters in the 2000 Constitutional Amendment that provided for a stable, predictable funding for Colorado Schools and students.

Another achievement, I am particularly proud of, was actually only a partial success. It was also a partial failure, from a legislating standpoint. In 2022, I made an effort to raise public awareness of the fentanyl crisis. Several years ago, the Legislature de-felonized fentanyl in Colorado. The results have been disastrous. I led an effort to address the fentanyl crisis.

The Legislature ultimately failed to re-felonize fentanyl. It still hasn’t — yet. Deaths continue to mount. Republicans continue the battle.

Is there anything else you would like us to know about you?

I’m a fourth-generation Coloradan who grew up on a farm in Jefferson County, in between Rocky Flats and Standley Lake. I drove a tractor, milked cows, irrigated crops, and more. The work ethic I learned as a child carried over into my adult life as a public servant.

When I worked for Gov. Bill Owens, I was on the inaugural trip that lawmakers and civic leaders took to Israel. We freely walked through Gaza. I think of that now when we see what is happening in that part of the world.

I was honored when John Swartout, who worked for two governors and served as executive director of Colorado Counties Inc., said, “No one has done more to get funding for children in our state than Barb Kirkmeyer.”

I’m a graduate of the University of Colorado, but I love it when our other colleges do great. Well, except when we play Colorado State University. Go Buffs!

When I’m not attending meetings or at the state Capitol, I love spending time with my family. I have six grandkids, all boys. Aren’t grandkids the best?