The Colorado Women’s Bar Association honored Kathleen Collins “KC” Becker at the 2020 Legislator’s Breakfast with the prestigious Champion for Change Award. Becker most recently served as the 60th Speaker of the Colorado House of Representatives, the highest leadership position of that body.
Before becoming a politician, Becker earned her B.A. in government from the College of William and Mary in 1991, her M.S. in real estate development and construction management, and her J.D. with an emphasis in environmental law from Lewis and Clark Law School in 1996, where she was president of the Public Interest Law Project. She has also been a practicing attorney and CWBA state and Boulder chapter member for many years.
After practicing real estate law for several years, Becker started her career in politics on the Boulder City Council, serving from 2009 to 2013 as the council’s representative on the Boulder Urban Renewal Authority and the city’s representative to the Denver Regional Council of Governments (DRCOG). Her leadership skills were quickly evident and respected. In 2013, she was elected to serve House District 13, which extends from the city of Boulder to Colorado’s mountainous Grand County.
In 2013, a vacancy committee selected Becker to fill a vacancy at the Colorado House of Representatives. During the 2014 midterm election, Becker defeated Republican candidate Michael James Hocevar, and ran unopposed during the 2016 election cycle.
As a legislator, Becker pulled from her experience working for the Department of the Interior as an environmental lawyer. She has been a notable advocate on water and agricultural issues, supporting moves toward using cleaner energy options to combat climate change. During the 2015 and 2016 legislative sessions, Becker served as the vice chair of the Agriculture Committee. Becker has stated, “People come to Colorado because of its quality of life. Clean air, clean water, and abundant and accessible public land are not only good for the environment, but they are good business. I’m passionate about protecting Colorado’s environment.”
In addition to environmental legislation, Becker has focused her legislative efforts on affordable housing, women’s health care, and governmental accountability for special interest tax breaks. Becker stated, “I support legislation that protects vulnerable populations by providing access to affordable health care, affordable housing, and access to public benefits and services. I also support legislative efforts to address the cliff effect, which cuts benefits too quickly to those who are trying to regain a foothold by getting jobs.” Becker supported efforts to increase funding for mental health screenings and treatment capacity as well as a reduction of substance abuse. While in office, Becker tackled issues including reforming regulation of the oil and gas industry, increasing broadband access to rural Coloradans, ensuring the financial stability of the state’s pension system (PERA), and protecting the viability of public healthcare programs from reform of the Hospital Provider Fee. As a legislator, Becker remained committed to investing in K-12 education and finding long-term school funding solutions.
Specific to issues of focus for the CWBA, Speaker Becker has been a consistent champion for the women of Colorado. The Champion of Change Award was given to Becker for her many years of leadership and advocacy on the CWBA’s core issues, including passage of Colorado’s landmark Equal Pay Act, preservation of reproductive rights, and criminal justice reform. The Colorado Equal Pay for Equal Work Act aims to close gender wage disparities by requiring that employees, regardless of their sex, be paid the same wage rates for performing substantially similar work. The Act went into effect on January 1, 2021.
In addition to her policy accomplishments, Becker is remembered for the relationships she created during her time at the capitol. “This is an opportunity to expand your knowledge, horizons and make a difference by just walking 10 or 15 feet,” Becker said of the physical divide between the parties on the House floor. “At the end of the day, you can go to the well, you have the right to speak your mind. . . . If you only want to make a point, you can do that. If you want to make a difference, walk the 15 feet. Take the time. It’s worth it.” She believes that there is more camaraderie across the aisle than people realize. When asked what characteristics are most important for an elected official, she responded, “Some of the most important characteristics for a public official are accessibility, patience, hard work, and good listening skills.” Becker has exhibited all of these skills in her service to the people of Colorado.
Becker is still deciding on her next move. While making that decision, she intends to spend more time with her two sons, 12-year-old Leo and 9-year-old Ryder, and husband, Miles Kunkel. Her leadership will be greatly missed, but her legacy and impact on the state will endure.
Madeleine Sheahan is an associate at Sherman & Howard. She has favorably resolved contentious divorces and regularly advises on and structures agreements regarding the allocation of parental responsibilities, child support, custody, maintenance, relocation, and high-asset property distributions. Madeleine has secured temporary and permanent protection orders for clients and has represented clients in contempt hearings, in arbitration proceedings, and decree modification hearings.
A collaboratively trained lawyer, Madeleine is often able to help spouses amicably end their marriage or resolve disputes without the need for contentious litigation.
Before joining the firm, Madeleine worked as an associate at another Denver law firm and as a judicial extern for U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Kristen L. Mix. She has participated in several pro bono projects, volunteers her time to a number of nonprofit organizations, and serves as a Judge Arguello “Law School Yes We Can” mentor.