Ritter off to a good start with Cabinet selections

Gov.-elect Bill Ritter tapped two well-known and well-qualified Democrats this past week as his first Cabinet members. Each will bring a unique perspective to their posts.

Former U.S. Rep. David Skaggs was named executive director of the Department of Higher Education and the Colorado Commission on Higher Education, and former Denver Auditor Don Mares was appointed executive director of the Department of Labor and Employment. Both need Senate approval, but that shouldn’t be a problem.

Improving higher education is one of the cornerstones of Ritter’s agenda. While Skaggs isn’t an academician, he will bring a solid record of achievement and a good pedigree to the Cabinet.

“Preparing Colorado’s young people to succeed in a global economy and an extremely competitive workforce is vital,” Skaggs said in a prepared statement. “I look forward to doing everything possible to keep college affordable and accessible for all Coloradans and to help realize the full potential of Colorado’s extraordinary system of higher education.”

Mares, a lawyer, is a longtime friend of organized labor. His background as a state lawmaker, serving in the House and Senate from 1989 to 1995, will prove helpful. His appointment will be welcomed by two key components of the Democratic base: Hispanics and labor unions.

Ritter also stole Michael Locatis away from the city of Denver, naming him the state’s chief information officer. Locatis, formerly the city’s chief information officer, will lead the Office of Information Technology.

Ritter has a big Cabinet to fill, but he’s off to a decent start.