A month after Gov. Jared Polis took office and three months post election, key cabinet positions still are not filled.
That leaves three state departments — including the one that oversees Colorado’s mental health hospitals, child welfare division and 10 youth corrections centers — without bosses.
Besides the Colorado Department of Human Services, the others are the Department of the Revenue and the Department of Personnel Administration. At human services, community partnerships director Jerene Petersen is serving as acting director until a permanent director is named.
The governor’s office had little to say about the delay in hiring, except that the new goal is to fill the jobs by “mid-February.” In the transition, Polis made it a priority to finalize his cabinet by his inauguration Jan. 8 so his administration could “hit the ground running in January.”
“We are working on filling the positions,” the governor’s communications director Maria De Cambra said.
The state agencies referred questions about the hiring process to the governor’s office.
Polis launched his transition team Nov. 12 and named prominent Democrats and allies to help him recruit and vet candidates for cabinet posts. He also enlisted help from the Keystone Policy Center to ensure a seamless transition.
A team of committees sorted through hundreds of applications from people who wanted to manage the states roads and bridges, universities and colleges, the foster care system and tax collections. The recommendations were due to the governor Dec. 8.
Besides executive director jobs, other top-level positions — such as deputy directors and division leaders at state agencies — also remain in limbo. The situation is on the mind of local officials, who pressed Polis at a recent event about when he would fill a position within the Department of Natural Resources.
The director for the human services agency is one of the toughest to fill, as The Colorado Sun reported in December. It is a position often mired in controversy, as former Gov. John Hickenlooper discovered.
In 2015, the vast majority of the legislature expressed concern about the agency’s chief, Reggie Bicha, but the governor rebuffed the demands to replace him.