Mar 222011
 
Authors: Rachel Childs

In 2004, John Kefalas starved himself for 29 days to protest the war in Iraq and Afghanistan that his son was fighting, losing 18 pounds.

“I’m willing to die for my country, but I won’t kill for it,” Kefalas said.

In 1979, the CSU graduate traveled to El Salvador as part of the Peace Corps and worked in the midst of a civil war. He said the experience exposed him to high levels of poverty and lack of resources.

“It really showed me how other people live and how blessed we are here,” Kefalas said.

First elected in 2006, State House Representative Kefalas, D-Fort Collins now fights in the Colorado state legislature.

The third-time legislator and former middle school science teacher said he walks from his apartment in Denver to the Colorado State Capitol to hear and vote on Colorado’s future laws. He returns to his apartment and dives into the ever-changing issues and bills that will be brought up the next day.

Kefalas sits on the House Finance Committee and the Health and Environment Committee and reads all of the proposed bills and deals with a plethora of hot-button issues that he must make sure align with the wants of the people.

This happens five days a week from January to May, with weekends spent just as busily in Fort Collins where he spends the time working with community members.

“Rep. Kefalas is one of the most effective legislators in Colorado’s General Assembly. He is by far the hardest working legislator that I know,” said Randy Fischer, State House Representative, D – District 53, who shares an office with Kefalas.

Fischer and Kefalas worked together in 2008 to establish strict regulations for uranium mining in order to protect public health and groundwater. The two are currently pushing for a voting seat on the Colorado Board of Governors for a CSU student.

“To me one of the most important things is to create opportunities for people to get involved and to get engaged,” Kefalas said.

On top of his House duties, Kefalas tackles issues that are close to his heart. Child welfare and the elimination of poverty for future generations is still a passion, despite the nearly $1 billion revenue shortfall and high economic disparity in Fort Collins.

He serves on the Governor’s Community & Interagency Council on Homelessness and chairs the Economic Opportunity Poverty Reduction Task Force, which aims to halve the amount of childhood and poverty by 2019 at the state level.

Kefalas credits his steadfast morals on a strong Christian faith and his father, who came from Greece with little but a high school education.

“He taught me a lot of things, but the three most important things were to be honest, work hard and put others before you,” Kefalas said.

Community members said they appreciate the effort that Kefalas makes to get them talking. Constituents join him in the lower level of Dazbog Coffee Store on Mason Street almost every Saturday morning to discuss upcoming legislation and give their two cents about how they view the government.

“I always like the fact that John listens to both sides,” said Dennis Dinmore, owner of Wilbur’s on Drake Road and College Avenue, who frequents the discussions.
It’s a full roster of responsibilities, but Kefalas concedes that sometimes it can be overwhelming.

“I carry the weight of the world on my shoulders,” Kefalas said, holding back tears.

A strong faith keeps Kefalas grounded when times are hard. But he said he does find time to get away and clear his head by being an avid backpacker and gardener.

“This path or journey that I’m on –– I think its proper, but it’s not easy. I think sometimes I’d like to kind of turn the clock back … in many ways that would be easier … but I don’t think that’s my destiny,” Kefalas said.

Staff writer Rachel Childs can be reached at news@collegian.com

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