Mar 032009
 
Authors: Elyse Jarvis

Wayne Allard says he’s got a bad rap.

Sitting in Student Media’s conference room Tuesday morning, the 65-year-old former senator twists his wedding ring as he says TIME magazine set out to embarrass him politically when in 2006 it called him the “Invisible Man” who almost never played a role in major legislation.

“Remember that TIME magazine are the same ones that made Adolph Hitler man of the year?” he asks, his big brown eyes widening behind his thin gray-framed glasses.

“Their credibility, I think, is lacking in a lot of quarters, and in my particular case, they never interviewed me; they never talked to me. They said they never heard from me, but I’m one of the top one-third of senators that spoke on the senate floor.”

Allard, who’s expressed clear interest in the CSU System’s just-created chancellor role, is newly off his 12-year stint in the U.S. Senate and has the personality of your typical grandfather.

Dressed in khaki slacks, a button down shirt and a sport jacket with his gray hair neatly combed over, he’s easily strayed off any conversation topic but is gruff and obviously decided on his political views — which have drawn intense criticism from local advocacy groups like ProgressNow, who say his staunch Republican stance makes him unfit for the system’s CEO and fundraiser position.

“(Allard) has ignored the important issues and instead (made) his top priority interfering in other people’s privacy by pushing to amend the U.S. Constitution to discriminate against gay and lesbian couples,” Michael Huttner of ProgressNow said in a November statement.

A democrat in his youth, Allard is ironically known most commonly for the conservative ideals he’d adopt later, with one in particular drawing the most heat: In 2003, he introduced the Federal Marriage Amendment, which would have banned same-sex marriage.

But Allard says his view on the issue isn’t as cut and dry as it appears.

“(The proposal) wasn’t about homosexuality; it was about state’s rights,” he defends, his hand coming down in a swift chopping motion.

“I saw the federal courts coming in and taking away the legislative power of the states to decide what they wanted to do on a very important issue, and I thought the people needed to have a forum in which to debate that. It was a free speech issue, and it was a states issue.”

Allard interrupts and deflects any question thrown his way about how his position on gay marriage could affect a role in which he would represent students.

“As an administrator, (social issues are not) anything I’m going to concern myself with. . I’m out there raising money and trying to create a good public image,” he says as he fidgets with the office supplies and voice recorder sprawled on the table in front of him.

He insists it’s his relationships with the state legislature and his familiarity with CSU — not his social views — that make him an ideal candidate for the chancellor spot.

Bleeding green and gold

Allard says his ties to CSU span back to when he was 11-years-old, as he credits the university researchers that visited his ranch at that time with giving him his first look into a microscope.

“I’ve lived and breathed CSU. It’s something I’ve grown up with,” he says.

Allard spent his undergraduate years in Fort Collins, going on to get his doctorate in veterinary sciences at CSU in 1968. Raised on a ranch in Waldon, Allard skipped the university’s dormitories when he came to CSU, opting instead to help out at his grandparent’s Horsetooth farm while he pursued his life-long goal to become a veterinarian.

Marrying his wife, Joan, a CSU graduate with a degree in microbiology, in his third year into veterinary school, Allard went on to open his own practice in Loveland.

“It was a relatively small community at the time, and I was a small businessman feeling the burden of taxes and government,” says the now-father of two and grandfather of seven, explaining that it was there he was first encouraged to run for public office.

With his father working as the chairman of Congressman Wayne Aspinall’s 1972 re-election campaign, Allard says it was after Aspinall lost that he and his “conservative democrat” family switched to the Republican Party. When Allard entered politics in 1983, it’d be as a member of the GOP.

Going on to spend a total of 26 years in the political arena — eight years as a state senator, six as representative for the 4th Congressional District and 12 as a U.S. senator — Allard took a terminal pledge from his start in politics, “’cause I didn’t plan on being a professional politician,” he says. “I’m a veterinarian.”

Living with the law

Explaining that no one should go into politics with the idea of being just a politician, Allard says it’s important that those who push measures in policy must also return to “live with the laws they passed.”

And since leaving the Senate, he says he’s been doing just that.

“I’m looking for a job just like everyone else,” he says with a hearty laugh, though he established Wayne Allard Associates, which helps market area start-up companies, three weeks after leaving his former office.

Holding down the cost of higher education for students, Allard says, would be his first priority as chancellor, and he says he hopes to pursue teamwork with the presidents of the Fort Collins and Pueblo campuses rather than a role of oversight.

And Allard’s already won one supporter on campus: Taylor Smoot, student government president, says he intends to tell the CSU System Board of Governors, who will hire the chancellor, that he believes Allard will be an advocate for student priorities.

“We need someone who can make things happen,” Smoot said, citing Bruce Benson, president of the CU-System as proof that someone with a background outside of academia can make a big difference in fundraising.

And though some of the system’s faculty have expressed concerns in hiring a chancellor with political, rather than academic roots, Seth Walter, student government director of legislative affairs, said someone with experience in politics would “be able to conduct the position very efficiently.”

Michele McKinney, head spokesperson for the BOG, said preferential treatment will not be given to any candidate based on political background.

“It’s important that you get into something you enjoy,” Allard says, “and I know that as a chancellor, I just feel like I’d enjoy it, because it’s things I’ve been doing.”

“I enjoy the people of Colorado, I enjoy raising money, and I enjoy seeing Colorado State University continue to grow and continue to provide the good, quality education it’s been doing in the past.”

News Managing Editor Elyse Jarvis can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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