Colorado House Speaker praises Rep. Martinez, work of legislature


Photo by Marie Mccolm The Rio Grande Democratic JFK Dinner’s keynote speaker was Colorado House Speaker Julie McCluskie. She praised fellow Democrat and local Rep. Matthew Martinez and talked about what the legislature has accomplished. Courtesy photo Arnold Salazar was given an award Rio Grande Treasurer Award and Rep. Matthew Martinez was given the Rio Grande County Democrat Higher Education Award at the Rio Grande Democratic JFK Dinner.

McCluskie gave keynote address at JFK Dinner in Monte Vista

MONTE VISTA — The Rio Grande Democratic JFK Dinner’s keynote speaker was Colorado House Speaker Julie McCluskie. She praised fellow Democrat and local Rep. Matthew Martinez and talked about what the legislature has accomplished.

Approximately 35 people attended the dinner at the Outcalt Event and Conference at SLV Ski Hi Complex on Nov. 4.

The dinner began with Jessie Anthony Guerrero giving a general introduction and thanking everyone for attending the dinner.

“We have some awesome candidates joining us tonight you will be hearing from all of them as well as state representative Matthew Martinez, and our keynote speaker, the Speaker of the House Julie McCluskie.,” he said.

McCluskie thanked the Rio Grande County Democrats for inviting her and all the volunteers that put on the event. This is her third term in office.

Before getting into her background, McCluskie said Martinez had done a “brilliant job” in his first term. Martinez was elected to represent District 62 in 2022 and has already indicated he will be running again in 2024.

“I have had the opportunity to work with legislators these past few years,” she said. “You get to know who is willing to put in the hard work, who does their homework at home, and who pays attention to the people that they serve. Representative Martinez showed up on the job eager, willing, earnest. It was no small thing that he was appointed. His success with House Bill 1037 demonstrates his commitment to students and to those who end up in vulnerable situations, sometimes making poor choices, who really do deserve a second shot at a full and thriving life.”

McCluskie was born and raised in Denver. She grew up in Lakewood. Her family were farmers in North Dakota.

“I really do believe that I was born with dirt under my fingernails. I had a commitment to agriculture from an early age,” she said.

She attended Colorado State University, Fort Collins, where she met her husband. I spent a lot of time in North Dakota on the farm.

“We had that dream of living in the mountains, so we moved to Vail fresh out of college. We skied, we mountain biked,” she said. “We enjoyed the rivers and the forests. We fell in love with our state. I left the mountains for a brief period, but we have been in Summit County now nearly 24 years. We raised our children there and it is truly my home. I spent most of my time in the mountains and in public education.”

McCluskie worked at a rural school district like those in the Valley.

“A rural school district that welcomes children from a diverse array of backgrounds and experiences and does its best to provide every child a world class education,” she said. “I decided to run for office because I was frustrated with the lack of funding that we had in our K12 system. I was very fortunate to first take office in 2018.”

McCluskie spoke of the importance of funding education.

“I think it matters to all of you, that we invested an additional $650 million in education last year,” she said. “This year we will be paying off what we have called the negative factor, the budget stabilization factor.  A tab where we have pulled money away from schools to help fund other necessary vital needs in our state.”

She added that teachers, schools, and students will continue to benefit from that kind of investment.

“If you think about it, another $150 million and we will be able to say but that we fully fund education, because we do need to put even more money into the into our schools to make sure teachers earn a living wage. This legislature will deliver on that promise to our schools for the first time in 14 years,” she said.

McCluskie also spoke of some of the challenges she faces as Colorado House Speaker.

“I will say that having served in the legislature is a privilege and an honor, but also a tremendous challenge,” she said. “This state has faced a great deal these past few years with the global pandemic. We continue to see challenges around economic mobility for many of the citizens in the state. While I believe our legislature has made some great strides in investing in the people that we serve, and the programs that deliver for Colorado. It is not a job that is yet complete we have more to do.”

McCluskie said the legislature had 611 bills that ran through the House and the Senate this year, 484 of those bills were approved by both chambers and signed into law.

“Those bills included things like a commitment to higher education, bills around housing, healthcare, childcare, and certainly our K12 education system,” she said. “I would say without question it was the busiest and most challenging session that we have seen in a long time.”

With the election only days away, McCluskie spoke of the importance of voting, and to engage with politicians.

“In a community like Monte Vista in the San Luis Valley it is so important that all voices be heard,” she said. “In closing tonight as you venture out the doors, and election day is only a couple of days away. Make sure you get your ballot in. I hope you will come by and see Representative Martinez and I hope you will come by and see me. I always have coffee and chocolate and I am willing to share. Thank you all.”