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In his campaign to represent Colorado’s 2nd House District, which covers some of Denver’s fastest growing, millennial friendly neighborhoods, Alec Garnett made clear a desire to prioritize higher quality early childhood education in the state.
“It was one of the things that I was hearing when I was knocking on doors,” said Garnett, 31, son of Boulder District Attorney Stan Garnett. “I wanted to tackle it head on, this question of how to prioritize every kid getting an opportunity for high quality early education.”
On Wednesday afternoon, mere hours after Garnett was sworn into office, the state House Democrats introduced as its first bill of 2015 an initiative, co sponsored by Garnett, that aims to empower early childhood educators through a tax credit for those teachers who seek out continuing education.
The Boulder native and Fairview High graduate said his commitment to that bill, co sponsored by Lakewood Democrat Brittany Petterson, is symbolic of his willingness to seek out constituents and push for their wishes.
“I put my cell phone on everything,” he said in an interview following his swearing in. “Folks have to feel like they have the opportunity to get in touch with their representative.”
To that end, Garnett plans to hold office hours, so to speak, once or twice a month in Denver grocery stores. The philosophy that drives that sort of action, he said, can be largely credited to his father.
“In public office,” Stan Garnett said Wednesday, “you’ve got to be available, and you’ve got to know what people think. Return your phone calls, return your emails. You don’t have to agree with everyone, but you have to listen. That comes very naturally to Alec.”
In addition to prioritizing early childhood education, the younger Garnett said he hopes to focus this year on issues of affordable housing and student loan debt.
Living and working in some of the Denver neighborhoods most attractive to young professionals, Garnett added, “brings with it a lot of focus on jobs and the economy, and a lot of focus on how we diversify our housing stock so that millennials can transition from renting to owning.”
Rick Palacio, chairman of the state Democrats, thinks Garnett is just the man for that charge.
“With the district that he’s in right now being one of the youngest” in Colorado, Palacio said, “it’s exactly the place that will fit him well. He definitely brings a fresh perspective.”
His predecessor, the term limited Mark Ferrandino, exited the Capitol as Speaker of the State House. Garnett said he knows that filling Ferrandino’s shoes while paving his own path will take “a lot of homework,” plus a civic awareness solidified during his childhood in Boulder.
“The thing that I always took away growing up there was that it was a place where everyone cared deeply about their community, and the decisions that were being made to improve it,” Garnett said.
“That shaped me at a really young age, because I’ve always been passionate about the public sector. It’s the place I can have the biggest impact on the community around me, and there’s no doubt that that type of engagement in Boulder rubbed off.”.