John Hickenlooper: Hat's off to Colorado's entrepreneurial spirit

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John Hickenlooper might not like wearing a tie, but he has a thing about hats these days. He donned a giant cowboy hat for his speech at the Citizens of the West dinner Monday night (scary photo at right and below); he modeled a Denver Broncos cap during his State of the State speech yesterday. But the figurative hat that that seems to fit him most comfortably is that of Colorado's governor.

After a year in office, Hickenlooper's speech yesterday was casual but comprehensive, using a story about the creation of the Stetson hat in the Colorado goldfields to issue a call for cooperation under the gold dome -- so that this state can show Congress, even the world, what the entrepreneurial spirit can do. "The story of the Stetson is about one of Colorado's earliest entrepreneurs," he said. "That same spirit is with us today. Indeed, in some way, everyone in this room is an entrepreneur."

Hickenlooper's speech (you can read the entire prepared text here, and he stuck pretty closely to it; even the reference to "ever cooler" Lieutenant Governor Joe Garcia was scripted) covered everything from education to the environment, the budget crunch to beer. Among the places he'll need that legislative cooperation is a push for a ballot measure to reform the personnel system, and also the reconfiguration of Pinnacol Assurance, perhaps the most carefully worded part of the speech.

But the stickiest issue could well be civil unions. During a 45-minute speech that saw the audience jumping to its feet close to ten times (for the Broncos, for Mike Long of Arrow Electronics, for Michael George, a formerly homeless man celebrating his fiftieth birthday and a new life), Hickenlooper's call for the Colorado legislature to pass a civil union act to "treat all people equally" saw a number of Republican lawmakers glued to their chairs.

Other projects to watch for: Pedal the Plains, a tour of Eastern Colorado next September, the flip -- and flatter -- side of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge, and TBD Colorado, an effort to collect opinions from around the state on the future of Colorado. Which indeed is still to be determined. "We all have the capacity to make a good hat," Hickenlooper concluded.

And this next legislation will determine some of that direction. Will lawmakers cooperate? One of the more telling moments came before Hickenlooper started his speech, when Speaker of the House Frank McNulty handed the gavel to Senate President Brandon Shaffer. "Take care," he advised. "This is a little bigger than what you're used to."

Keep that under your hat!

More from our Calhoun: Wake-Up Call archive: "Denver Coliseum's sixtieth anniversary tied to National Western Stock Show."

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