BACA, POLLY (b. 1941)
Polly Baca's career is filled with firsts. She was the first Latino (and the first minority) to be elected to the Colorado Senate and the first Latina to serve in the leadership in any state senate or to be nominated by a major party to run for U.S. Congress (an election she lost).
Baca is a lifelong Coloradan, and most of her public service has been in Colorado. She was born in Weld County on February 13, 1941, and grew up in Greeley and Thornton. In 1962 she received her bachelor of arts degree at Colorado State University. Baca was drawn into politics as part of the first campaign to harness Latino voters, the 1960 "Viva Kennedy" campaign. Her campaign work initiated a series of political jobs, first with unions, then with the Democratic Party and the United Farm Workers. Baca tapped these experiences when she successfully ran for the Colorado House of Representatives in 1974 and the Colorado State Senate in 1978. She left the Colorado legislature to run unsuccessfully for U.S. Congress in 1986. Baca received two appointments in the Clinton administration. In 1993 she was appointed director of the U.S. Office of Consumer Affairs. She left this position in 1994 to return to Colorado as Rocky Mountain regional director for the General Services Administration.
After leaving public service in 1998, she began her own consulting firm and worked as a full-time volunteer with the Center for Contemplative Living, which is dedicated to renewing the contemplative dimension of the Gospels in everyday life. Polly Baca holds honorary degrees from the University of Northern Colorado at Greeley and Wartburg College. In 2000 Baca was inducted into the Colorado Women's Hall of Fame.
Louis DeSipio University of California, Irvine