DENVER – The Colorado Senate on Monday remembered former state Sen. Jim Isgar as a larger-than-life lawmaker who taught colleagues that their word is their bond.
Isgar died March 4 in Denver after a 4½-year battle with a rare form of leukemia. He was 64. The Senate chimes in the Capitol rang in his honor Monday.
With deep roots in La Plata County and a thrust to advance agriculture and water policy, Isgar helped close the divide between rural and urban Colorado.
“Jim bridged the gap for a caucus that was largely Front Range, and took us to the Western Slope, so that we understood the issues of water and conservation – things that make the Western Slope so special,” said former Senate President Joan Fitz-Gerald, who was granted special permission to formally address the chamber.
Isgar, a Democrat, was remembered as a statesman who could work across the aisle, setting an example for the rest of the Legislature. Often towering over his colleagues in size, his heart appeared just as large.
“Our difference in party affiliation didn’t matter in the least. What mattered the most was where we came from and what we could work together on,” said Sen. Ellen Roberts, R-Durango, who holds the same seat Isgar held.
Roberts sponsored the memorial passed by the Senate on Monday. It recognized Isgar as a Durango native and a Fort Lewis College graduate.
Isgar’s career started with accounting, but took many twists and turns that often led him back to farming, as he acknowledged that his parents “would sell the farm if I didn’t come back and take it over.”
One of his achievements included a 2009 appointment by President Barack Obama to serve as the U.S. Agriculture Department director of rural development for Colorado.
As his career wound down, Isgar “returned to his first love of gardening,” according to the text of the memorial.
“There wasn’t any corner of the state that Jim didn’t cover,” Roberts said. “He had an incredibly big heart.”