Citizen Dyer reflects on decade in politics

Posted 1/6/11

Former District 2 Arapahoe County Commissioner Jim Dyer has his share of political war stories from 10 years in county and state elected office. …

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Citizen Dyer reflects on decade in politics

Posted

Former District 2 Arapahoe County Commissioner Jim Dyer has his share of political war stories from 10 years in county and state elected office.

After a stint in the Air Force, the west Centennial Republican earned second stripes raising three daughters — virtually on his own — before entering the dogfights of Colorado politics.

A Mormon and a devout student of history, Dyer, 63, is quick to correct what he says are misconceptions about military, political and religious history.

For example, Dyer, who holds two history degrees from the University of Denver, challenges a conventional talking point that says the New World was founded on the principle of protecting religious liberty.

“They wanted the freedom to practice their own religion,” Dyer said of the early pilgrims.

As evidence, he points to his own ancestor — Mary Dyer, a Quaker who in 1660 was famously hanged in Boston for defying a Puritan law banning Quakers from the Massachusetts colony.

Some 350 years later, the sometimes controversial 21st-century Dyer escaped such fates — though some questioned his wisdom in converting to Mormonism on the eve of running for county commissioner.

“If you want this job so bad, you’re willing to sell your soul, you shouldn’t have this job,” he said.

Prior to his county position, Dyer served six years in the Colorado Senate representing Arapahoe County’s District 26. Before that, he campaigned for the likes of U.S. Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell and U.S. Rep. Dan Schaefer.

Last March, Dyer surprised political observers when he said he would not seek a second term on the county’s board of commissioners. As he completes his decade in politics, Dyer sat down for an interview with Colorado Community Newspapers.

CCN: What are your plans?

Dyer: To work in the water business. Beyond that, I’m not going to publicly discuss what I’m going to do for a lot of reasons.

CCN: Do you have a job offer?

Dyer: I do.

CCN: You served on the board of the Arapahoe County Water and Wastewater Authority. Is that where your future lies?

Dyer: Probably.

CCN: Any chance you’ll run for office again?

Dyer: I don’t think so. Ten years of elected office is enough for anybody. When you’re in politics and you drink the water of power, people start to believe their own press clippings. They become demanding and judgmental and experts in things they’re not experts in.

This is not a lifetime job. I’m at the top of my game. I did what I wanted to do. I figured there’s no better time in the world to leave than when you are on the top of your game.

CCN: What’s your proudest accomplishment?

Dyer: When I ran for this office, we didn’t have a paid Veterans Services officer in the county. We have 88,000 veterans. I made a campaign promise that I would get us one. We have collected [in 2010] over a million dollars in [federal] benefits [for veterans in the county]. A lot of them were overdue and caught in the maw of government somewhere.

We did a deed restriction around Centennial Airport — that you can’t put single-family residences in Dove Valley, ever. Centennial will now be there forever, as long as they fly airplanes.

They wanted to do a $740 million property-tax increase to build a bunch of judicial facilities the county didn’t need. There was silence in the room. I looked up and said it’s not going to happen — and it didn’t happen. We moved things around, but we did it for $19 million.

Governments love to build their own fiefdoms. They love to build and build and build and solve and solve and solve problems. Governments take on a life of their own. I always hated that.

CCN: What are you most proud of as a state senator?

Dyer: We kept the death penalty, number one.

I wrote and sponsored the preemption law, which means every little city and ’burb in the state can’t have its own version of the Second Amendment. You could drive from here into Denver and cross through four jurisdictions and every one could have a different law about carrying guns.

CCN: Which level of government did you prefer?

Dyer: At the state level, you’re involved in a lot of public debate. The stronger the debate, the more well prepared you have to be. At the same time, you’re only one of 100 people.

As a county commissioner, you have quasi-judicial, legislative and administrative authority. You get things done and the media’s not in your face every day. A commissioner in Arapahoe County, in my opinion, has more authority to make a bigger difference in the state than the governor can.

CCN: Any regrets?

Dyer: No, none at all.

CCN: Not one regret in an entire decade?

Dyer: In the Legislature, you don’t get the privilege of having everything your way all the time. I voted for a transportation funding bill I didn’t like. It involved tax money and and multi-modal transportation. I want to see more money spent on lane miles for people driving cars than I do for bike paths. That’s a philosophical point.

CCN: You’ve never liked public transportation, have you?

Dyer: No. You probably like it because somebody’s paying 95 percent of the cost of your ride. Everybody who drives to work is paying for their ride and yours. The operating cost is horrendous.

CCN: Have you ever taken light rail?

Dyer: No. I can’t vote against things, argue against them and then go and get on it and have taxpayers pay my way downtown too.

CCN: The five-member board of commissions consists of three Republicans and two Democrats, but the three Republicans haven’t always voted as a united majority. Did that frustrate you?

Dyer: If you want your policies to go forward — I’m quoting [19th-century British Prime Minister Benjamin] Disraeli now — you’ve got to be in the majority and you’ve got to act like a majority.

One of my big fears was that if we ever had a Democrat majority in the county commission, they would invite unions in. I can’t think of anything worse with the expense and the conflict you’re going to create.

CCN: Have you always been a Republican?

Dyer: Yes.

CCN: Are your daughters all good Republicans?

Dyer: No (sighs). My eldest daughter is a very strong Republican. My No. 2 daughter voted for Bill Clinton for reasons that are beyond me. Of all people, I thought my youngest daughter had been educated right. Somebody called me and said, “I just saw her Facebook thing and her most admired person was Nancy Pelosi!”

There are a number of Democrats I have a lot of admiration for, but Nancy Pelosi is not one of them (laughs).

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