Sep 132005
Authors: James Baetke

Editor's Note: This is the second politician profile in a series of four articles in the Collegian every Wednesday.

A veterinarian by profession, Sen. Stephen Johnson is an animal when it comes to fighting for what he believes.

Whether it's health care, beer keg identification or toxic batteries being dumped in landfills, Johnson growls at his opposition and will work across the legislative aisle in an attempt to get his way.

A 17-year resident of Fort Collins and a CSU alumnus, Johnson represents District 15, which covers all of Larimer County except Fort Collins.

"I am a very strong supporter of CSU," Johnson said. "I am very grateful to the university."

The university propelled Johnson into the world of veterinary medicine. He eventually came to own a clinic in Loveland for 16 years, which he sold recently. His wife, Lynette, is a teacher at the CSU veterinary teaching hospital.

Born in Columbus, Ohio, Johnson moved to Colorado as a teen where he graduated Arapahoe High School in 1978. After spending eight years at CSU, he studied chemistry, political science and veterinary medicine.

Having an interest in politics throughout his life, it was not until 1996 that he was elected to the Colorado House of Representatives.

Some of the things that have lately been weighing on his mind include higher education, Colorado's budget woes and moreover, Referenda C and D.

"C and D is the biggest thing we are working on," Johnson said.

He claims the referenda are essential to keeping Colorado afloat in several areas, including keeping the state's universities from going private.

If passed by voters in November, Referendum C allows lawmakers to spend $3.6 billion that would otherwise go back, in part, to taxpayers in a refund and eliminate state spending limits over five years.

Referendum D is the sister act to C and would allow money to be borrowed right away for transportation and school construction needs.

Opposition, though, say the referenda are tax hikes and need to be shot down.

"We will zero out higher education if C and D fails by the end of the decade," Johnson said.

Currently working part time as a teacher at a private school in Fort Collins, Johnson has retired from keeping animals in good health, but continues to raise his horses, goats, a dog and a cat at his home near Horsetooth Reservoir.

"I always wanted to be a vet since I was 12 years old," he said.

Despite some negative outcomes in his lawmaking life, with some sponsored bills passing and others out the window, being a man of religion is essential to life, he said.

"Religion is the most important part of my life. Faith should be important in politics and life," Johnson said.

Several self-initiated and co-sponsored bills flopped for Johnson in the last legislation session, but this does not deter the lawmaker from fighting for what he believes.

As for the future, Johnson has another year at the Capitol and plans to tackle health care in the next session. He can run one more time before being term-limited.

"I am 90 percent sure I will run again," he said.

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