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Health executive, education volunteer tapped as lieutenant governor

Donna Lynne.  Hyoung Chang/The Denver Post)
Donna Lynne. Hyoung Chang/The Denver Post)

Gov. John Hickenlooper’s pick for lieutenant governor is a top healthcare executive who has held a number of volunteer posts in education but doesn’t have the deep experience on the issue as her two predecessors.

High-ranking Kaiser Foundation executive Donna Lynne, 62, has served
on the boards of the Denver Public Schools Foundation, Teach for America-Colorado and the University of Denver. In 2011, she was named co-chair of Mayor Michael Hancock’s Denver Education Compact, and she sat on the testing task force that studied state assessments in 2014.

Colorado’s lieutenant governor has few specific duties, and the governor also is assigning her duties as a chief operating officer for the state. The governor said he plans to discuss that role with the legislature.

“Donna Lynne is uniquely qualified to take on this role,” the governor said. “Her background in successfully running large complex organizations – in both the private and public sector – and her wisdom and experience in operations, will enhance the lieutenant governor’s role to make even more of an impact on programs across the state.”

Lynne is executive vice president of the Kaiser Foundation Health Plan and Kaiser Foundation Hospitals, overseeing an $8 billion budget and operations in Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon and Washington.

Prior to entering the private sector, Lynne spent 20 years in New York City government, serving the mayor’s office as director of the Office of Operations.

She also has close ties to Denver’s business leadership, serving as chair of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce in 2013-14 and on the chamber board for nine years. Chamber CEO Kelly Brough was Hickenlooper’s chief of staff when he was Denver mayor. Lynne also is a member of Colorado Concern and Colorado Forum, two business groups active on civic issues and generally aligned with the chamber.

“I look forward to working with the governor and his cabinet, a team of dedicated professionals who are committed to improving the business and overall climate of Colorado,” Lynne said in a statement.

The Democratic-controlled House and the Republican-majority Senate must confirm Lynne’s nomination.

Questioned by reporters, Hickenlooper indicated he might not necessarily serve out his full term, which ends in 2018. He said he might be interested in a cabinet job if the Democratic presidential nominee wins in November. He said Lynne could step into the governorship immediately, but she said she wouldn’t be a candidate for election if that happened.

Hickenlooper needed a new second-in-command because Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia announced last November that he was resigning to become president of the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education.

While Lynne has served on several education-related boards, Garcia and his predecessor, Barbara O’Brien, had higher profiles on education. Garcia previously served as a president of two state colleges and has been director of the Department of Higher Education. O’Brien, lieutenant governor under Gov. Bill Ritter, led the Colorado Children’s Campaign before running with Ritter and currently is a member of the Denver school board.

Education hasn’t been as prominent an issue for Hickenlooper as it was for Ritter. Hickenlooper has focused on implementation of education reforms passed before he became governor, improvement of early childhood education and college affordability.

The Lynne announcement brought a flurry of congratulations on Twitter from Democratic politicians, lobbyists and others. Here are some samples from education-related groups:

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