DENVER – Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia announced Tuesday he is stepping down to pursue another position in higher education.
Garcia accepted a job as president of the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education, continuing his long career in the education field. He is expected to begin work for the organization before July 1.
The Boulder-based commission – which represents Western states – works to expand educational access in the West.
In addition to his role as lieutenant governor, Garcia serves as executive director of the Colorado Department of Higher Education in a dual capacity.
Before that, Garcia was president of Colorado State University Pueblo. He also served as president of the second-largest community college in Colorado, Pikes Peak Community College.He also worked on Native American issues in Southwest Colorado through the Colorado Commission on Indian Affairs.
“This was a difficult decision, but education has always been my passion,” Garcia said in a statement. “I look forward to carrying the message of opportunity, college completion and workforce development throughout the West.”
After the announcement, Garcia received an outpouring of support. Friends and colleagues portrayed him as a man who overlooks politics for the greater good.
“Joe will be nearly impossible to replace,” said Gov. John Hickenlooper, who tapped him to run as his deputy on the Democratic gubernatorial ticket in 2010. “He has been an exceptional lieutenant governor and in leading education efforts for Colorado.”
Hickenlooper can nominate a lieutenant governor as Garcia’s successor, though that position must be confirmed with majority votes in both chambers of the Colorado Legislature. The next director of the Department of Higher Education will require a confirmation vote only in the Senate.
“Joe Garcia has simply been a tremendous asset to Colorado,” said House Speaker Dickey Lee Hullinghorst, D-Boulder. “I have no doubt that his record of exemplary service will continue at WICHE, which has been finding regional solutions to higher education issues for more than 60 years.”