MONTROSE – Incumbent Don Coram (R-Montrose) will not run unopposed for his District 58 House seat.
The Democrats have found a new candidate, in 54-year-old Western Slope native Tammy Theis, who told The Watch this week, “I’d like to take this opportunity, and my experience at DMEA, to advocate for doors to open.” Doors to “better education, added training, better salaries” for constituents of the newly-redrawn district, which now comprises Montrose, San Miguel, Dolores and Montezuma counties.
Theis (pronounced “Tice”) went straight from high school in Cedaredge to a four-year apprenticeship at Delta-Montrose Electric Association, where she eventually spent 35 years. “But I’m too young to retire,” Theis said. “I’m eager to continue to work.”
At DMEA, she was a staking engineer. “That means I handled the design, permitting and rights of way for getting power to your property. For example, I did all of the power design, overhead and underground, for Oxbow Crossing south of Montrose, and Target and J.C. Penney, all of that development.”
While at DMEA, Theis became involved in labor organizations. She was vice president and political education chair of Local No. 111 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, which “represents more than 5,000 electrical workers in Colorado and Wyoming – essentially everything this side of the Continental Divide.”
She was also president of the Western Colorado Trades and Labor organization. She believes in the opportunities, like her own apprenticeship, provided by organized labor. “I come from simple means. My dad was a barber. My mom was an employee of State Farm Insurance. We’re lucky that we live in America where we have the ability and initiative to do things.”
Theis has also been involved with the Magic Circle Players Community Theatre in Montrose, with Hospice and Palliative Care of Western Colorado, and as a co-founder of the Women’s Resource Center, which is now the Tri-County Resource Center under the Hilltop umbrella. “It’s just awesome how [the Resource Center] has become self-sustaining,” she said.
Theis is currently working to bring Rural Philanthropy Days to Montrose next summer. A Denver-based program, “It’s three days of workshops bringing together grantmakers and grantseekers, with the goal of how nonprofits can become sustainable,” she said.
She said her first priority as a state representative would be to stimulate employment through opportunities that already exist, including apprenticeships and internships, the non-profit sector, natural resource and renewable energy development, and work in environmental fields.
Commenting on Theis’s decision to run, Montrose Democrat Bill Patterson said, “You have to be pretty brave to run as a Democrat in this part of the country. But who knows? I was surprised at how well she did in the DMEA board elections this year,” said Theis, who lost out to incumbent Brent Hines, “who had the full backing of the Republican Party.
“Come Election Day in November, people will have a choice,” she said, for the Republican-held seat threatened to go uncontested, following last month’s withdrawal from the race by Democrat Greg Thornton.