Last week, Mike Kopp stepped down from the state Senate seat he had held since first being elected in 2006. With his departure, Jefferson County loses a statesman.
Serving in the legislature while maintaining a “day job” is tough enough for any father. But for Mike, it had become impossible. Three months ago, Mike’s wife and best friend, Kimberly, lost her three-year battle with cancer. Without regret or second thoughts, Mike decided that his four school-age kids needed more of his time.
Mike’s decision to put family over political career says more about him than I ever could in this column. It also says something about the true nature of leadership.
For Mike, leadership has always been an outgrowth of service. As a young man, he served as an Army Ranger in Panama and the first Gulf War. He worked his way through college by joining an elite National Park Service Hot Shot fire crew fighting wildfires throughout the West.
After receiving a B.A. in ministry, Mike moved to Colorado and used his organizational talents to help nonprofit organizations, churches and community service programs in Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado.
He also started a family with Kimberly, and together they would have four wonderful children: Meghan, Ethan, Allie-Grace and Soren.
Mike’s style is quiet, kind, firm, thoughtful, deliberative, positive and gentle. His ready humor never comes at the expense of others. Those who know him well treasure the authenticity of his friendship.
Although Mike is deeply committed to his conservative principles, he’s quick to give fair consideration to dissenting views. He’s never judgmental, pedantic or uncharitable. That quality has earned him the respect and affection of his colleagues on both sides of the aisle at the state Capitol.
The “family values” politician is a cliché these days. Yet when we get to know this particular species of elected official, we’re very often disappointed to find that it’s just a pose, struck to win the hearts of an electorate hungry for genuine men and women of character.
For Mike Kopp, “family values” isn’t a political prop. It’s who he is. He is above all else a servant: to God, to his country, to his state and to his family.
As Mike faces the next phase of his life without Kimberly, he does not go alone. He goes with the well wishes and sincere appreciation of this community, in gratitude for his service to all of us.
Rob Witwer is a former member of the Colorado House of Representatives and co-author of the book, “The Blueprint: How Democrats Won Colorado and Why Republicans Everywhere Should Care.”