Szutenbach highlights transparency in HD 25 bid

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Neville aide to replace Leonard on Nov. ballot

By Sal Christ

Steve Szutenbach didn’t expect to be running for public office this fall. In fact, a month ago, the U.S. Air Force veteran was busy assisting state Sen. Tim Neville with his re-election campaign in Senate District 16, which covers Littleton, Conifer and Evergreen.
But then state Rep. Tim Leonard, the Republican incumbent in House District 25, announced he was dropping his bid for re-election following fallout from a recent court ruling related to the terms of his divorce. Within days, Szutenbach threw his name into the ring of possible replacements for Leonard on the November ballot, and by Aug. 7, he was the chosen finalist.
Szutenbach will face Democrat Lisa Cutter this fall in the race, which covers Evergreen, Conifer, Coal Creek and parts of Golden and South Jeffco.
A resident of Evergreen since 1997, Szutenbach’s foray into politics as a first-time candidate has been a long time coming.
“I realized that until I moved here to Colorado, I had never voted in my home of record,” said Szutenbach. “I joined the Air Force at 17, and my first time being eligible to vote was in the 1976 election. With my home of record being Florida, but never being assigned there, I did absentee ballots until 1997 when I moved here.”
Needless to say, Szutenbach not only started voting in his new home of record in 1997, but he also got involved in any way possible — first as a Republican caucus attendee, next as a vacancy committee member in Senate District 22 before redistricting in 2011, and finally as a legislative aide for Neville, R-Littleton.
Up until four weeks ago, Szutenbach had spent five sessions as one of Neville’s aides and helped manage his campaign.
Now, the retired airman and self-proclaimed constitutional conservative says he wants to contribute to the community in a more active way.
“I always call myself an operations guy. My job (as a legislative aide) was to make sure Sen. Neville could do his job,” said Szutenbach. “For me, (deciding to run for office) was one of those decisions that was focused on doing something to contribute more as opposed to just standing by. I felt compelled to do it.”
For Szutenbach, contributing more means making transportation and infrastructure key priorities in the state budget, encouraging regulatory reform and finding a way to reconcile the Public Employees Retirement Association (PERA), the state’s public employee pension fund, which is currently underfunded by billions.   
“PERA has an obligation to the retirees who are in the system, but they also have an obligation to treat the taxpayers fairly. There needs to be some way that we can figure out how to make that work — meet the obligations, but also not bankrupt the state,” he said.
Szutenbach said he’d also like to see more government transparency and is a fan of the state’s legislative audit committee.
While he puts a premium on issues, Szutenbach said his other big priority, if elected, is to respond to constituents calls — something he feels too many state legislators fail to do.
Florida-born father of two
A native Floridian and 14-year veteran of the U.S. Air Force, Szutenbach is the father of two adult children and has been married for 39 years to fellow U.S. Air Force veteran Mary Pat Szutenbach, a professor of nursing at Regis University in Denver.
Szutenbach holds a bachelors degree in electrical and electronics engineering from the University of Texas at San Antonio and is working on patenting new products through his small business.
An avid hiker, Szutenbach has hiked about 1,000 miles of the Appalachian Trail — from Georgia to North Carolina.