Sue Wilson Beffort to retire after 20 years in the state Senate

Sen. Sue Wilson Beffort is taking part in her last legislative session, and will retire at the end of this year, not seeking re-election to her East Mountain district when her term expires.

Beffort took a brief break from the session Tuesday afternoon for an interview with The Independent, “I’ve been up here for 20 good years—some of them have been hard years. I feel really good about some of the legislation that I’ve carried and some of the industries that I’ve helped.”

Saying, “I hate to talk about it but everybody’s replaceable,” she said there were multiple factors in her decision, including the death of her husband last year.

“You know that I lost my husband, a major reason I’m retiring,” Beffort said. “It’s very difficult to do a good job up here, and drive home in the dark.” She lives in PaaKo, and the drive from Santa Fe down North 14 includes areas where cell phones don’t work, and she often finds herself driving home late. “It’s just not safe for a lady,” she explained.

As for her tenure in the Senate, Beffort said that work with early childhood issues stands out as noteworthy.

“What is the merit of focusing on prioritizing funding programs for these children so they can get a better start in school? That’s been one of my major cornerstones. To recognize that if we’re ever going to turn this barge, you have to look at where your problems are. … People from middle class families, they always seem to have a good start in school They know their numbers, their colors. … I saw that poor people were stuck.”

She described the “two facets” of the Legislature as the “bills that you do” and capital outlay. “The biggest challenge is to be an effective legislator and I’ve strived to do the best job I could every year,” she said.

Beffort is known for reaching across the aisle and working with people of all political stripes. Asked about this, however, she replied that the public misunderstands what bipartisanship actually is. “Some bills you vote a party ticket and there are reasons that you do that,” she said. “Most other bills are not like that. Many of them have to do with urban versus rural. Some of them, like the crime bill today, have nothing to do with being an R or a D, they have to do with what you felt about the bill.”

She continued, “Also, I like my colleagues personally. … You like them and you come to understand why somebody is in opposition to an issue, where they’re coming from—who elected them and who they’re representing.”

Beffort said she likes the Senate because it looks deeply at “the merits of each and every issue.” She added, “We don’t get into name calling or things that are more personal, hurtful, and shouldn’t necessarily be said. I wish more people could understand this concept.”

She pointed toward working with Rhonda King, a longtime representative of House District 50. “She and I partnered on a lot of these early childhood things. I would never have questioned her votes on other things and she never would question mine.”

Beffort entered the Legislature as a businesswoman, and is the ranking member of the Legislative Finance Committee. She also points to her efforts to lower taxes, helping get the income tax lowered from 8.5 percent to 4.9 percent. “That includes capital gains. And people that are land rich but money poor, … if they sell their farms they got hit with capital gains.”

Beffort said she was the person “who put the whistleblower concept on the table,” entering the first bill.

“Most recently, I was really excited and I think I did a great job with the microbrewery industry. I think I helped them turn a corner, get their taxes competitive.”

Asked what her plans are after retirement, Beffort said, “I love the East Mountains. I love my house in PaaKo. … I think that I’ll find my way with some new challenges. I can’t tell you what that will be yet.”

She said her family is now all out of state, with her sons on opposite sides of the country and both of her brothers living in California. She said she’ll be spending more time with “my family and granddaughter and stuff.”

The Independent will be sitting down with Beffort—along with other area legislators—later this week to talk about the current legislative session.