Jul 102007
Authors: Brian Park

John Kefalas sure knows how to break a sweat.

Over the course of the summer the Democratic state representative for House District 52, which includes most of Old Town Fort Collins, is walking door-to-door and asking voters, residents, and whoever else he encounters what’s on their mind.

“This energizes me,” Kefalas said on a recent Friday afternoon, July 6. “I believe those of us who get elected have a responsibility to go out and connect with people.”

Kefalas was a freshman this year in the Colorado legislature, which ended its session in May. Strolling through the neighborhoods he represents, he says, is a way for him to hear if people liked his performance, do not agree with his positions or at least know who he is.

Shannell Sedgwick, fresh in town after living in Orange County, Calif., for years, said so far she’s impressed with what she’s seen.

“I’m a very politically active, involved person,” Sedgwick said, and she rattled off various issues on her political radar: immigration, uranium mining in Nunn, water issues on the Cache La Poudre River, abortion and the funding of a wildlife sanctuary in Keenesburg.

Not only was she surprised to find Kefalas knocking on her door, but also to find out he’s a neighbor as well. The representative lives right near the corner of Sycamore and Whitcomb streets in Old Town.

“Oh, that’s great,” Sedgwick said as she left open the possibility that she might be interested in volunteering for Kefalas in the near future.

Count that knock on her door a success.

The Collegian escorted Kefalas on his tours on the afternoons of July 2 and 6. Both days the temperature hovered around the 90-degree mark, yet Kefalas still came prepared with his clipboard, targeted lists and pamphlets.

He is targeting Democrats who only vote in presidential elections, unaffiliated voters and Republican women who do not vote in primary elections.

Answering the door while still zipping up his pants, Robert Handy had just moved to town from Rifle, but he already had more than a couple issues weighing on his mind.

“I think urban sprawl needs to be addressed big time,” Handy said. “I grew up in Boulder, and they did a good job at protecting their green spaces; Fort Collins needs to look at that.”

Kefalas sat kneeling on the floor, nodding his head.

Handy then moved on to what he sees as the gentrification and raising of rents in Old Town – a sort of defacto discrimination that moves minorities and poorer communities outside of town.

“I like riding my bike around, I’m the pedal type, and I’ve noticed a lot of the old houses are being bought for investment,” Handy said.

He drew the comparison to Capitol Hill in Denver, and how tenants were forced to leave because of the lack of affordable housing and elderly people could not afford their property taxes.

Their off-the-cuff conservation soon careened into the new oil and gas boom occurring on the Western Slope and environmental issues in general.

At the end, Handy escorted Kefalas to the door and told him it’s always nice when politicians come and do the person to person.

Kefalas’ visits were generally positive, due to the fact that Precinct 206 in North Old Town is a heavily Democratic district. District 52 goes from Mulberry Street and College Avenue south to Carpenter Road, east out to Interstate-25 heading north up the interstate, west over to the Richards Lake area and then snaking its way down to City Park at Mulberry Street and Taft Hill Road. And the district encompasses the majority of Old Town.

On the tours Kefalas chatted about big national issues like immigration reform and the Iraq War, to local and specific issues, such as Colorado’s commitment to renewable energy and the need for the state to usher in health care reform.

The environment and health care were two very popular issues frequently discussed. Kefalas touted a state bill passed this year that will require Colorado to use 20 percent renewable energy by 2020, a measure that has received both praise and opposition from some begrudged utility companies.

In regard to health care, Kefalas would tell the story of his wife, who recently had a hysterectomy and had been without health insurance.

Describing the operation to a mother, he laughed as he looked over and saw her daughter was watching Disney cartoons.

“When my wife had the operation they said her uterus was the size of a watermelon,” Kefalas said. “And the doctor described it as looking like Mickey Mouse.”

The state representative will be walking all summer and will only get busier and busier, he said.

“It’s a lonely job, but somebody’s got to do it,” Kefalas said.

Staff writer Brian Park can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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