Q&A with Linda Powers

Editor’s note: In the first issue of Colorado Central Magazine in March 1994, Linda Powers was the subject of an article entitled Bella Abzug in Cowboy Boots.
Linda had been elected to the Colorado State Senate in 1992 by a margin of 53% to 47% over her opponent, Republican lawmaker Harold McCormick of Cañon City. She represented what was then District 4, comprised of Park, Fremont, Lake, Chaffee, Gunnison, Hinsdale and Pitkin counties, along with eastern Delta County. Linda was the first woman to represent the 4th, and was also the only woman, in all the General Assembly, to represent a rural district.
From the March 1994 interview: “I didn’t even own a dress before the campaign,” she confesses. “Now I own two. Clothes are theater, in a way, and you use them to help your role.” No matter how elegant her outfit, she’s generally wearing knee-high cowboy boots, too. “Shows you what I stand on,” she jokes.

Linda Powers
Linda Powers

Colorado Central: What prompted you to run for the Colorado State Senate?

Linda Powers: I had lots of experience in local government starting with the Crested Butte council in 1979. I ,was a local activist fighting against an Amax moly mine. In 1992, the state reapportioned districts; we lost our Democratic state senator and inherited Rep. Harold McCormack. My kids were off in college and I knew he didn’t represent me, so I decided to run!

CC: How many terms did you serve?

Linda: Just one.

CC: What was your proudest accomplishment as state senator?

Linda: Often I played defense to and led the Senate many times in protecting local control. Many of the things I introduced did not immediately pass but set the stage for later legislation. Among the ideas I introduced were developer impact fees to finance schools and roads, conditional water rights to be used for recreation, 35-acre subdivision review, and the end of blue laws. My focus was often on the impacts growth was having on our rural, recreation-based economies!

CC: Your biggest disappointment?

Linda: Well, certainly losing my Senate seat to Rep. Ken Chlouber in 1996. We were so different, and I truly believed I was the better match for the district.
CC: As the first woman to represent the 4th District, did you encounter much resistance from the mostly male State Senate?

Linda: Being a woman in politics has always had challenges. In the Senate, I quickly earned respect because of my honesty and ability to always speak out for the people I represented. I think even now a woman has to work harder to prove herself.

CC: Do you believe you helped open the doors for other women from rural districts to the state house?

Linda: Yes.

CC: In the original Colorado Central article, Ed Quillen describes you as Jeffersonian. Is that an accurate description?

Linda: No one term is always correct, but I do believe in local control.

CC: Did you ever consider running for a higher office?

Linda: I did. I ran for Congress, 3rd District against Scott McGinnis in ‘94, and therefore became the number one target of Repubs in the ‘96 reelection.

CC: When and why did you serve as mayor of Crested Butte?

Linda: I served on the C.B. Council from 1979 to 1985 and 1991 to 1992. I was mayor for two terms from 1999-2003. It seemed natural and everyone wanted me to run.

CC: Any thoughts on the current state of politics in Colorado?

Linda: I hate what has become of the Republicans. They were not so radical back then. It is such a hostile political environment, and there is too much money and corporate influence in politics.

CC: Tell us about your involvement with Conservation Colorado.

Linda: I first joined the Board of Colorado Environmental Coalition when I was mayor of C.B. in ‘03. They wanted to get more statewide representation and reached out to me as a strong voice for rural Colorado. I was chair of the board two years ago when we decided to do a merger with Colorado Conservation Voters. Our combined mission at Conservation Colorado is to protect the land and people of Colorado and to elect pro-conservation legislators. We are both a 501c3 dealing with issues and a c4 dealing with politics. We have been heavily involved in the Browns Canyon protection, and work in the areas of wilderness, water (so critical for Chaffee County) and energy.

CC: What do you consider the major environmental issue facing Coloradans today?

Linda: Climate change here and throughout the world.

CC: You moved to Denver to be closer to your children and grandchildren. Care to elaborate?

Linda: It’s all about family. My kids and grandchildren are my everything – what I and my husband do is for them. When I work to preserve and protect this state, it is for them and all our children. I have two married children and five grandchildren.

CC: Could you describe your evolution from lawmaker to face painter?

Linda: My first job was New York City schoolteacher. Then while I did politics, I also ran my C.B. toy store, Pooh’s Corner. When I sold the store, I decided to do something that was stress-free and related to kids, hence face painting, which gives me lots of joy.

CC: How many dresses do you now own?

Linda: I still dress in a very artistic fashion, combining vintage clothes (yes, I shop at Goodwill often), my signature boots and long skirts. I own five dresses and lots of accessories.

CC: Thank you, Linda.

Note: The original article about Linda Powers can be found online at: www.coloradocentralmagazine.com/1994-march/linda-powers-enjoys-her-new-powers/