Marcy Morrison, Colorado insurance commissioner

Marcy Morrison’s political career started with the Manitou Springs library board. Now, four decades and countless challenges later, she may be headed back to the library board.

“I may be out of job here pretty soon,” says the Commissioner of the state Division of Insurance, referring the possible turnover in the Governor’s Mansion. As a self-proclaimed moderate Republican, she thinks she wouldn’t be a new governor’s first choice for insurance commissioner. “But I hear there’s an opening on the library board. I just might look into that.”

That’s vintage Morrison. At a time in life when most people would be happily retired, Morrison is scouting her next community service opportunity. She loves nothing better than a new challenge, especially if it gives her an excuse to reinvent herself and find a new outlet for her political activism. “Mixing it up with people — now that’s the way to go,” she says.

A New Yorker by birth, she and husband Howard headed for Colorado soon after he graduated from law school. “Our families were not in favor of us moving so far away,” she says. “But we were eager for the adventure and for the chance to reinvent ourselves.”

The couple settled in Manitou Springs and soon had children. But Morrison wasn’t the stay-at-home-mom type. “I got involved in the community. You join things so you can become part of the larger community. It certainly worked for me.”

Morrison volunteered at the local library. “They had an opening on the library board. If you were on the board, you got first pick of the new books that came in. So I joined the board.”

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Next, she ran for school board. She recalls that her first successful political campaign cost her $11.34. “Just for mailings and flyers,” she says. “Things certainly have changed.”

After a decade on the school board, she ran for county commissioner in 1984 — and became the first woman ever elected to it. She moved up to the Colorado legislature, winning a House seat in her district four times. She chaired the House health committee from 1992 to 2000 and sponsored much legislation of which she is proud.

But by 2000, she had had her fill of state politics. “The campaigns just got uglier and more expensive,” she says. Did she step back from politics? Nope. She reinvented herself, this time as mayor of Manitou Springs. In six years as mayor, she drove downtown revitalization and brought tourist dollars back to a town that had fallen into a rut.

When Gov. Bill Ritter called her in late 2006 to ask her to take the job as Commissioner of the Division of Insurance, she barely hesitated, even though it meant working and living during the week in Denver. Still, the challenge was too much to resist.

Now, as she looks back on a lifetime of public service, she takes greatest satisfaction in “the things that came out of the ground that you were a part of at the beginning. All those words! All those meetings! All that paperwork! Then, you see where it led to something, that you were part of the change.”

Regardless of what comes her way next, do not look for Marcy Morrison to retire. “Retirement is the path of least resistance to old age,” she says emphatically. “I don’t have any hobbies, so I’ll just have to find another opening somewhere.”

By Dan Cook