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The Colorado Governor's Residence in Denver on Nov. 20, 2018. (Eric Lubbers, The Colorado Sun)

Gov.-elect Jared Polis will not move to the Colorado governor’s mansion in the state Capital and instead will stay at his home in Boulder.

The Democrat would be the first chief executive since 1959 to not live at the Governor’s Residence at least part of his term, and his decision is expected to increase costs related to his commute.

In an interview, Polis said he and his family, including partner and two young children, would remain in Boulder, but he would spend the night at the mansion in Denver during the legislative session when needed.

“I’m going to be a statewide governor,” Polis told CBS4, a news partner of The Colorado Sun, explaining that he planned to travel the state extensively.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Jared Polis speaks at La Rumba in Denver on Sunday, Nov. 4, 2018. (Jesse Paul, The Colorado Sun)

Polis’ roots in the liberal college town of Boulder, where he currently serves as a five-term congressman, drew criticism from Republicans on the campaign trail, and Democratic strategist Steve Welchert told The Sun that Polis’ decision sends the wrong signal.

“It’s a huge problem because it’s not an existential job. … Running the state of Colorado is a job that needs tending to. You can say you have technology and toys, but it just doesn’t work that way,” he said.

“It’s a little like not going to the Club 20 debate — except more,” Welchert added, referencing Polis’ decision to skip the traditional campaign event on the Western Slope. “You can violate mores — Donald Trump’s proven that — but some things matter.”

Two prior governors did not live at the mansion for their entire terms, becoming the first since the majestic estate at 400 E. Eighth Ave. was donated to the state by the Boettcher family in 1959.

Gov. Bill Owens, a Republican who served from 1999 to 2007, lived at the mansion for his first two years before moving to a private home in the Denver suburbs. He then moved back into the mansion at points after he and his wife separated.

Outgoing Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper has lived at the mansion intermittently, including periods after he separated from his first wife and during renovations on his home in Denver’s Park Hill neighborhood, where he mostly stays now.

The first floor of the mansion, which is known as “Colorado’s Home,” is open to the public for tours and events and features a Steinway piano signed by Liberace. The residence, in the upstairs portion, is 7,000 square feet with six bedrooms and seven bathrooms, and despite recent renovation efforts, needs more upgrades.

The setup has made the mansion isolating as times. Owens told The Denver Post in 2010 that it was a beautiful building, but “like living in a fishbowl.”

For Polis, the 30-mile commute each way from Boulder will mean added time on the road and expense to taxpayers. The estimated cost of gas for the roundtrip ride is about $8 — not counting wear-and-tear on the State Patrol vehicles that drive him. The total cost could reach into the thousands of dollars during his first term.

Polis told The Colorado Independent earlier this year that he is selling his home in Washington, D.C. He also owns a country home near Berthoud in Weld County but refused to say if he owns houses elsewhere.

Mara Sheldon, a Polis spokeswoman, would not answer questions about what factors led to Polis’ decision not to move to the state Capital.

The Colorado Governor’s Residence in Denver on Nov. 20, 2018. (Eric Lubbers, The Colorado Sun)


    John Frank

    John Frank is a former Colorado Sun staff writer. He left the publication in January 2021.