Governor John Hickenlooper with his wife Robin at the Governor's Mansion. Photo by Don Jones, Studio 9 Commercial
Q&A with Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper
This past July I had the honor of sitting down with Governor John Hickenlooper at the Colorado Governor’s Mansion. What a stunning backdrop for a photoshoot with the Governor and his wife. In our time together we talked about our shared love for Colorado’s live music scene and diversity of spectacular venues, his favorite holiday memories and traditions, the best advice he’s been given and what a perfect day looks like when he has a moment to escape the demands of his position.
What is your best childhood holiday memory?
That’s an easy one to recall. It was outside Philadelphia, where I grew up. I remember at Christmas, sitting on my Grandfather’s lap as he banged on the piano; leading the family in our favorite Christmas carols.
What is one thing the Hickenlooper household must do during the holidays?
The one thing we always do is have a holiday party. I really look forward to gathering together with our friends and celebrating all the good things we have. This is usually a pretty large party and it is held at the Governor’s Mansion. The Mansion gets decorated the weekend after Thanksgiving. There’s a whole troop of volunteers. It’s absolutely amazing and beautiful, making for a wonderful place to have a party. Last year we sat 62 people down the main hallway for Thanksgiving Day dinner. For years we’ve been inviting our old friends and family members. We call it the Thanksgiving Orphan Dinner because so many of us have migrated to Colorado, and many times friends can’t or don’t go home for the holidays. Years-ago we called them our ‘Orphans’. We still keep this tradition alive and it’s something I truly cherish each year.
What is the best gift you’ve ever received or gifted to someone else?
The best gift ever was when I was 9 years old. My brother, Sydney, who is 7 years older, collected Lionel electric trains; and I mean the big ones! My Dad passed away the previous February, so this was a particularly hard Christmas. Each year, the day after Thanksgiving, my older brother would always set-up his electric train set in his bedroom. It was huge; easily filling his entire bedroom with locomotives, trains, tracks and at least 12 electric switches. The Christmas after Dad died, Sydney gave me his train set! On Christmas morning there were tons of white bed sheets draped over a mass by the Christmas Tree. On top was a card from Sydney to me. It said ‘I spent most of my life collecting this train set and now I gift to you.’ – Sydney.
What has life been like for you and your family living at the Governor’s Mansion this year?
Our family has lived at the Mansion full-time now for 16 months. Lately, it’s really felt like home, it’s a magical place. I still don’t feel like it’s my home, but rather Colorado’s home. It’s such a special home and during the Christmas season it’s open almost every day for public tours. My affection continues to increase in magnitude for this home.
What is the best advice you’ve been given as Governor?
There’s a woman named Pam Patton, who I was interviewing to see about serving on the Public Utilities Commission. She was a Democrat from a very conservative part of the state. I asked her how she could persuade those folks on the potential dangers of climate change. She told me this. ‘One thing I’ve learned in my life is that the only real way to get someone to change their mind is to listen harder to what they have to say.’ I’ve always felt this is great advice.
What is one thing still on your personal “Bucket List’?
I’ve always wanted to hike the Colorado Trail from one end to the other. I’ve been able to do many great things in Colorado and have even hiked parts of the trail, but never the entire thing.
You’ve had a goal to make Colorado the nation’s healthiest state. What do you want to accomplish on that front before your term ends?
Getting more of our youth into outdoor recreation is a goal of mine. I’d really like to see our kids get their faces out of their electronic devices and get outdoors. Currently, we’re working on a phone app called CO Trail Explorer – part of the Colorado the Beautiful program, that I hope will help with that goal. The app will have any trail (state, federal, county, etc.) loaded into this mapping system. You’ll be able to upload photographs, notes, comments and audio right where you’re hiking. We hope this connects with our youth and gets them outdoors more to track their health progress and engage with nature.
When you have a moment to escape the demands of your position, what does a perfect day look like for Governor John Hickenlooper?
A perfect day is always with my family. I love anything outdoors, going out for a hike, or just working on a project around the house. One thing I love is watching my son Teddy play baseball and soccer. He’s 15 now and really plays and practices hard. This is where I find my true enjoyment. I love seeing him push to be the best he can be and challenge himself. He works so hard at it, I know he’s going to just keep getting better. Most importantly he’s a great teammate; that’s really what sports is all about, learning to work with other people. A team is only as successful as its weakest link.
LEFT to RIGHT: Colorado Living Well Magazine Publisher & Founder Joshua Cates with Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper at the Governor’s Mansion.