3/23/10
 

Castle Pines Village resident and local businessman Joe Gschwendtner announced his exploratory campaign for governor of Colorado. The self-described “anti-politician” made the decision to run following caucuses, and he is looking to expand the current field of candidates. Gschwendtner will now focus on fundraising efforts and gathering signatures on a petition for the primary ballot.

Castle Pines Village resident announces candidacy for
governor of Colorado - not your average Joe

A funny thing happened in the Village. Out of nowhere, one of the “locals” decided to get back into politics. Problem is, he chose on March 16 to jump into the race for Colorado governor at the eleventh hour. At current estimates north of $5,000,000 to run the race, one has to ask if he is plumb crazy or does he know something we do not? Here’s what we do know...

Joe Gschwendtner was born in Brooklyn, raised in Yonkers. He is the son of a butcher, a German immigrant who fled his family farm in 1927 - days when food was where you found it and money worth so little as to be pushed around in wheelbarrows.

Public school worked well for Joe until his restlessness got him shipped away to boarding school. Ultimately, in 1964, he was accepted into Ivy League Cornell University. These were restless times of social conflict, and radical changes swept the country. Joe acknowledges being affected by the crosscurrents, but not enough to march in the streets. Then he read Atlas Shrugged, by Arn Rand, and his philosophy crystalized. (Interestingly enough, the hero flees to Colorado.)

Floundering all but socially, Joe was smitten by a blind date, Barbara Studor, the class president of Elmira College. Since love is a mirror and he did not like what he saw in himself, Joe straightened out and began to fly right. In June of 1968, Barb and Joe were married. The bad news was that 13 days after the wedding Joe was in the Army and, a year later, in Vietnam.

“Captain G” eventually spent eight years in the Army with an officer’s life appealing to both he and Barb. They had two children, Alison and Darrell, and he was blue-lined as general officer material. Then something happened in the post-Vietnam era. Form became more important than substance. A colonel asked him to shave off his mustache for a command position and, sticking to his principles, Joe said “No.” It was time for a parting of the ways.

Facing a major adjustment to civilian life at 30 and a Yankee in North Carolina at that, Joe and Barb headed for Colorado where they had honeymooned. Joe took up accounting and they lived happily ever after at least for a while, with the addition of daughter Stephanie in 1984.

Joe moved through several positions in corporate life, including a senior level financial management position and workout specialist during the IPO of FoxMeyer Drug Corporation in the early 80’s. As the company topped $1 billion in sales, Joe became restless and resigned.

Over the next decade, Joe navigated the rapids of small business and turnaround consulting. After owning Bennett Distributing, a specialty foods distributor, and Midwest Rubber and Supply, a conveyor belt company, Joe then specialized in consulting to distressed companies. Joe points out that when you are about to go under, management is much more responsive and flexible to innovative change and cost cutting. He claims to have never been happier than when he was up to his eyeballs in someone else’s problems - welcome to politics!

But there are several dimensions to the man. He followed Barb’s example, jumping deep into community service. Whether as board member or just mentor, Joe served 30 years in a variety of positions in his neighborhoods. Denver Kids, HOAs, baseball and soccer coach, CU Parents’ Association BOD, Providence Network, and today as Chair of the Castle Pines Metro District. (The Providence Network HQs is caddy corner to the governor’s mansion and Joe jokes that he’s been “parking in the governor’s lot for years; why not the house?”)

Joe is also a self-described “serial traveler.” While some have hunting trophies, sports uniforms, or various collections ringing the walls, Joe’s study is lined with travel memorabilia including a map with pins marking all of his off-continent trips. Have passport, will travel. Joe has gone as far as Singapore on a long weekend. He’s also a part-time writer (note the two articles herein) and he has taken 1000-mile motorcycle trips on Route 66 and throughout the west. He also ran unsuccessfully for Colorado Regent-at-Large in 1996 and “lost by a hair.”

None doubt that he is different. This is no more apparent than in the way he discusses his quest for governor. He describes himself as the anti-politician, the antithesis of the imperial elected official who “looks over your shoulder for a possible better opportunity split seconds into any conversation.” But this is just the beginning.

Joe rails at the state of politics, with each side often refusing to make any compromises that would allow a consensual solution to be reached. Citing healthcare, energy, environmental, and tax policy, he rolls out, of all people, Rodney King in saying, “Why can’t we all get along?”

Joe’s is an exploratory campaign seeking financing commitments to get off the ground rapidly and he is unwilling to make platform statements at this writing. But only moments later he advises that if he had the reins he would take the state “Back to the Future.” When asked what that means, he explains:

“We’ve carried on as if there is no limit on our capacity to provide government services. We are at rainbow’s end, at least for the time being. We must tighten our belts like pop did in the 50’s when things got tough. There are plenty of ways to notch down and I’ve spent decades doing this for client companies. It’s about time Colorado became a client,” said Joe.

With political cynicism being at an all-time high, it may indeed be the time for a cup of Joe. If the voters think so, Joe may get an upgrade from the gov’s parking lot.

      
 
 
Not your average Joe
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