Ken Salazar back in Denver as law-firm ‘rock star’

DENVER – Ken Salazar, the San Luis Valley native who stepped down as U.S. secretary of the Interior Department in April, is returning to private law practice and opening a Denver office for a national law firm, WilmerHale.

It was just a decade ago when the list of Democrats electable statewide began and ended with Salazar, who then was attorney general. In 2004, he won election to the U.S. Senate – the same year Democrats began winning more seats in Congress and the Legislature. Starting in 2009, Salazar served in President Barack Obama’s Cabinet, overseeing the National Park Service and much of the nation’s public lands.

Salazar called WilmerHale the best law firm in the country, and he said its opening of a Denver office signals the region’s importance.

“The Rocky Mountain region is really the geopolitical center of America, and it is a very strategic decision,” he said.

Robert Novick, the firm’s co-managing partner, said his firm regularly deals with a number of issues that drive Colorado’s economy – public lands, technology, intellectual property and finance. He called Salazar a rock star.

“The Rolling Stones are coming to town, and I think Mick Jagger just joined up,” Novick said.

Where Salazar once stood alone, there now is a glut of Colorado Democrats in top offices or angling to get there. Salazar toyed with the idea of running for governor in 2006, after just two years in the Senate, but he deferred, and voters elected Bill Ritter.

Salazar expects to remain out of politics for the foreseeable future, but at age 58, he didn’t close the door to returning one day. For now, though, his new job will take all his time.

“That’s going to be my focus. That’s where my energy will go for the next several years. I don’t know what the future will bring” in 2016, 2018 or 2020, Salazar said.

However, he won’t retire fully from the public debate. He’s involved now in pushing for immigration reform in Congress, and he expects to continue to chime in on political questions.

“I will continue to be involved,” he said.

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