DALLAS - Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper began his second term Jan. 13 reflecting on his personal struggles and those of the state he has governed the past four years.
In addition to the loss of his father at a young age, and the break-up of his marriage, Hickenlooper talked about his two years of unemployment after he lost his job as an exploratory geologist for Buckhorn Petroleum, the work that brought him to Colorado from his native Pennsylvania in the 1980s.
"During those two years that I was out of work, I lost my confidence and began to question my self-worth," he recalled.
Rather than leave the state and the career for which he had earned a masters in geology, Hickenlooper started the Wynkoop Brewery and became a successful entrepreneur.
Hickenlooper's experience provided an allegory for current petroleum geologists in the state after the price of oil has lost more than half its value in six months. The last time oil prices fell that sharply in 2008, the industry announced mass layoffs and the drilling rig count in the state fell by half.
As oil began climbing to $100 per barrel, Colorado broke a 60-year-old record for oil and gas production in 2013 as oil prices rebounded to $100 per barrel.
In 2014, Hickenlooper brokered a deal between the oil and gas industry and environmentalists over local fracking regulations, heading off a statewide ballot initiative that threatened the Democratic governor's bid for re-election. On Nov. 4, Hickenlooper narrowly defeated Republican challenger Bob Beauprez as Republicans gained control of the state Senate.
Hickenlooper recalled dealing with fires, floods and mass shootings such as the one at a theater in Aurora in his previous term.
"On this day as I stand before you and once again take the solemn oath to serve as your governor, I am not the same person that I was four years ago," he said. "In the same way Colorado is not the same state it was four years ago."
Hickenlooper, who makes his State of the State address Thursday, is expected to talk in detail about the state's economy and his plans for the budget. In his inaugural speech, he promised to continue working on transportation, water and environmental issues.
The governor took a swipe at the Taxpayer Bill of Rights Amendment (TABOR) that requires the state to return tax revenue to the taxpayers if it exceeds a certain threshold.
"Our State Constitution mandates that we increase our expenditures and simultaneously cut taxes," Hickenlooper said. "If that does not sound like it makes much sense, that's because it doesn't. Nothing can grow and shrink at the same time."