Steamboat Springs Routt County Sheriff-elect Garrett Wiggins said he got only two hours of sleep on the late election night Tuesday, and even then, his phone was ringing all night and he couldn’t sleep for long.
“It’s very exciting,” he said. “I’m looking forward to the challenges ahead and see if I can make some improvements … at the Sheriff’s Office and some relationship improvements, as well.”
Wiggins, commander of the All Crimes Enforcement Team, beat Sheriff Gary Wall by more than 900 votes. Wiggins will take office Jan. 11. He said he has four candidates in mind for his undersheriff, all from the law-enforcement community.
“Some of them have administrative experience, some not so much, and some of these guys have qualifications and experience in areas I don’t, which is what I’m looking for,” Wiggins said. “I want to have the complete package.”
He said he plans to pick the undersheriff in the next couple of weeks.
Wall said he was disappointed to be ousted from the Routt County Sheriff’s Office after his four-year term, but he said he doesn’t know what else he could have done to win the election.
“I’m philosophical about this,” Wall said. “I respect our electoral process, and it is what it is, and I got thrown out with the rest of the Democrats and incumbents in Colorado, and what can I say? You never know all the details.”
Wall got 4,051 votes to Wiggins’ 4,978. Wall took the lead in seven of the 18 precincts, including six of eight precincts in Steamboat Springs. The only rural area he won was precinct 4, bordering Steamboat to the northeast.
The figures were a reversal from the duo’s previous face-off in 2006. In that race, Wall won 4,235 votes, or 55 percent of ballots cast. Wiggins won 3,423 votes, or 45 percent.
Wall also won all eight of the city precincts decisively and picked up three rural areas.
Wall said he was not at the office Wednesday and turned his phone off Tuesday night after learning about the results. As of 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, the two candidates hadn’t spoken, Wiggins said.
Wiggins said several key differences in the candidates, the campaigns and the general voter mood in this year’s race kept it from being a repeat of 2006.
“Four years ago they went to the new electronic voting machines, they didn’t have mail-out ballots, and they reduced the polling places from 18 to eight,” he said. “People standing in line to vote, that was a major issue, I think.”
Jack Taylor, chairman of the Routt County Republican Party, said another major difference was the reputation both candidates had built in the four years.
“Garrett really worked hard on this one, not that he didn’t work hard last time, but he was pretty much an unknown four years ago,” Taylor said.
Wiggins said the national Republican wave, seen in the Republican control of the House of Representatives and many governors’ races, also helped.
“Four years ago there was a lot of anti-Republican, anti-Bush sentiment that had rolled around,” he said. “The tides have turned a little bit.”
Wall agreed the national sentiments could have had an impact.
“Boy, some pretty popular Democrats — John Salazar — lost, as well as many others,” Wall said, referring to the three-term representative for Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District. “Who knows what the connection is.”
When asked what he would have done differently, he said he hadn’t considered anything but said he didn’t have any regrets.
“I didn’t know what else to do,” he said. “I had a positive campaign and did what I could do.”
Wall said he doesn’t have any plans for a job after he leaves office, but he’s not worried.
“It’s disappointing, but in terms of life, it’s not a setback.”
— To reach Zach Fridell, call 871-4208 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org