Brandon Shaffer: From Capital Building to School District


Lauren Adams, Staff Writer

Born and raised in Colorado, with an immense list of accomplishments and experiences, Brandon Shaffer is one of the most inspiring members of the Colorado community. 


Shaffer was born on March 22, 1971, in Denver Colorado. He graduated from East High School with several accomplishments including serving as the Student Body President. Looking back at these accomplishments, they served as a sense of foreshadowing for his future career. 


After High School Shaffer attended Stanford University on a Navy ROTC scholarship. At Stanford Shaffer participated in the Stanford-in-Government program, working as an intern for the Colorado Governor at the time, Roy Romer. In 1993 Shaffer earned a bachelor’s degree in political science and graduated with honors. Following college Shaffer was commissioned into active duty in the US Navy. When asked about his time in the Navy Shaffer stated; “Serving in the Navy was rewarding. It was hard work, but I learned much about myself and leadership.”


While in the Navy Shaffer was stationed aboard a ship in Yokosuka, Japan, where they traveled throughout the southeast Pacific, including Singapore, Hong Kong, Thailand, Korea, the Philippines, Guam, and of course, all over Japan. Shaffer’s station also made two deployments to the Persian Gulf and stopped in places like Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt. When recalling this experience Shaffer commented; “While the hours were long and the work was difficult, I wouldn’t trade it for anything. It was an incredible experience.”


In 1998 Shaffer returned to the United States and was accepted into the University of Colorado’s Law School. To introduce himself into the world of politics Shaffer became the Get Out The Vote coordinator for Boulder County in the year 2000. The following year, Shaffer graduated from law school and continued his political career by continuing his service as the Boulder County Get out the Vote coordinator in 2002.


In November of 2004, Shaffer decided to run for State Senate as a representative for Colorado’s District 17. This was a big step for Shaffer and would require campaigning as the Democratic candidate against both a Republican and a Libertarian. There are many reasons why people decide to become involved with politics. For some, it may be for power or to leave a legacy, for Shaffer it was to make a difference. “I went into politics to make a difference in the world. I wanted to help solve the most challenging social issues facing our communities.” 


Fortunately for Shaffer, his campaign was successful and he won the seat over Republican candidate Sandy Hume, and libertarian candidate Bo Shaffer. What helped Shaffer stand out in this election was his closely related campaign team, who already had good relationships with Shaffer and believed in him. “The state legislative races were fun.  We called it the “family business” because my wife was my campaign treasurer and my best friend was my campaign manager.”


Having a tight-knit team came with the advantage of having full control over his campaign. This led to his campaign feeling very personal, with Shaffer and his team personally going out in their community and knocking on doors and waving signs on street corners. He continued his campaign by networking and talking to people at Rotary events and similar functions. All of these tactics helped strengthen his relationship with the community. 


As a representative Shaffer had the honor of working on very important pieces of legislation. Some of the legislation that Shaffer focused on improving included the areas of healthcare, juvenile justice, and K-12 public education, which are all issues that are important to the community as well as to Shaffer himself. Shaffer continued in the position when he got reelected in 2008. 


In 2012 Shaffer took the next step up and ran for Congress. Running for Congress was a much more strenuous process and Shaffer faced many more difficulties while running against Republican Cory Gardner in Colorado’s 4th CD.  “It was a strongly Republican district, and I didn’t really stand a chance.  Trying to raise money to campaign and connect with voters was very difficult.” 


While making advances in his career Shaffer also had a lot going on in his personal life, such as starting a family. Having a strong support system is very important for a successful career in politics. When asked how his family felt about him running for different offices Shaffer stated; “My family was very supportive.  My kids were very young, but they enjoyed attending political events and walking in the local parades.  My wife managed the campaign finances; later, after I was elected, she managed my calendar. We definitely did it together.” 


In fact, one of Shaffers fondest memories from working in the Senate was when his daughter -3 years old at the time- came to the Capitol dressed like Cinderella with his wife.  As the family was leaving the building, his daughter made him walk her down the main staircase and present her at the bottom of the staircase. Shaffer called it the “cutest thing ever!” 


When Peter Groff, the President of the Senate, resigned, Shaffer was chosen by his peers to become the new President of the State Senate. This is a very prestigious position, coming with many responsibilities such as presiding over legislative sessions. Shaffer described this job as being difficult. “On the one hand, I had all the resources and staff support I needed.  But on the other hand, I became the spokesperson for the majority party in the Senate.”


Shaffer recalled having to be careful with everything he said, wrote in an email, or posted to social media. He was very conscious of his image and the way the media may try to perceive him.  “It was stifling in a way. I was always afraid that I was going to make a political gaffe and be portrayed by the press in a negative light…That being said, I was able to direct the political agenda and focus on priorities such as health care reform and K-12 public education.” 


Some of Shaffer’s accomplishments while serving in the Senate included being elected by his fellow representatives to serve as the Senate Majority Leader, Senate Assistant Majority Leader, and Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Shaffer also served on the Senate Health and Human Services and Finance committees. When reflecting on what he misses the most from working within the Senate Shaffer stated; “I miss being on the inside of policy discussions.  I still work in public policy …  However, most of the “deals” are made between the different legislators.  They end up discussing major policy reforms while they are on the House or Senate floor – out of earshot of the lobbyists or the press.  I miss being involved with those meetings – that’s where things really get done.”


After his service in the Senate, Shaffer changed directions and joined the Colorado Parole Board. He served as the Chairman of the Parole Board from 2012-2015. When asked to describe this role Shaffer stated; “That was a challenging job!  I would travel around the state with my colleagues and interview prisoners in our penitentiaries. Then we would get together and vote on releasing certain offenders on parole.”


This job was very unique and fascinating, but the volume of cases and constant travel was difficult to keep up with, and ultimately Shaffer wanted to do something closer to his home. He lives in the city of Longmont and his wife teaches at Longmont Estates Elementary School, so applying for a position with the St. Vrain Valley School District seemed like a logical next step for 

Shaffer to take in 2015. Shaffer is currently still working with the school district, his official role is Executive Director of Legal & Governmental Affairs, Community Outreach, and P-TECH. This role is perfect for Shaffer because it plays to his legal skills and experiences, as well as in line with the K-12 educational issues he advocated for while in the Capitol. Shaffer said that the role is “interesting, diverse, and rewarding work… It also allows me to engage with new programming in our schools. I’ve helped develop the associate’s degree pathways at Skyline, Frederick, and Silver Creek. Most recently, I’ve helped start a new associate’s degree program at Longmont High.”


In addition to his work with the district, Shaffer was the founder of the club Student Senate’ where students from all around the St. Vrain School District could come together and discuss relevant legislation and role-play as congress members. His inspiration for starting this club was very personal. “I reflected on my experience and realized that nothing prepared me to enter public office.  There was no class or program that helped explain “how it really works.”  Schools do a good job of explaining concepts like separation of powers, one-person-one-vote, etc.  But we don’t do a great job of showing students how they can actively engage in our political system – such as how to run for office or testify in a committee hearing.  So, I came up with ‘Student Senate’ to give students some practical insights into our political system.” 


Shaffer’s life has been very rewarding and has allowed him to learn and experience many diverse things. When reflecting on his many roles, from serving in the Navy to working at the Capital, to being on the Parole Board, Shaffer said; “Ultimately, I’m grateful to work in the same community where I live, make enough money to provide for my family, and have a rewarding and fulfilling job where I feel like I’m making a positive difference in the world.”