Candidates speak out at North Routt forum
September 13, 2010
Steamboat Springs — Sparks already have flown in the race for Routt County sheriff, but Sunday's North Routt Candidate Forum provided few fireworks.
The candidates in that race, Democratic incumbent Sheriff Gary Wall and Republican All Crimes Enforcement Team Commander Garrett Wiggins, didn't debate during the forum. They, along with candidates in other local and regional races, spoke about themselves for a few minutes to a group that included about 10 residents at the North Routt Fire Protection District's Station No. 1 in Clark.
Wall said in his nearly four years as sheriff, he's almost eliminated the turnover in his office of 49 — 14 people left in his first year, compared to just five this year. Wall said he's stayed under his budget every year. Wall said the Sheriff's Office has started training Hayden Police Department officers in special weapons and tactics, or SWAT, exercises. He said the Sheriff's Office soon would be working with the Steamboat Springs Police Department for training.
Wiggins touted ACET's "almost perfect" conviction rate and said he would put its track record against any law enforcement agency in the state. Wiggins mentioned the relationships he's developed in a more than 20-year law enforcement career and some of the endorsements he's received. Wiggins said he loves his current job and that he doesn't need the job as sheriff but wants to give back to the community.
Despite the tenor of the forum, Wall and Wiggins still were able to get in a couple of jabs at each other.
"I want the job as sheriff. I want your support. I need your support," Wiggins said. "I want to bring a professionalism and competency of law enforcement back to this agency."
"I'm going to continue doing what I've been doing," Wall countered. "I've hired people who are professional to exercise good judgment and discretion to help instead of trying to get people."
In addition to Wall and Wiggins, candidates in other local races attended the forum to share information about themselves and why they're running for office.
All three candidates for the Colorado House of Representatives in House District 57 were in attendance. They included incumbent state Rep. Randy Baumgardner, a Hot Sulphur Springs Republican; and challengers Steve Ivancie, a Democrat and former Steamboat Springs City Councilman, and Oak Creek Resident Mike Kien, a Libertarian.
In the race for Routt County coroner, incumbent Coroner Rob Ryg and Darrel Levingston, a longtime member of Routt County Search and Rescue, also spoke at the forum. Kevin Nerney, a former firefighter who also is running for coroner, didn't attend.
Even a couple of candidates running unopposed for re-election were in attendance, including Routt County Commissioner Diane Mitsch Bush and Routt County Treasurer Jeanne Whiddon.
Catherine Carson, chairwoman of the Routt County Democratic Party, said Sunday's forum allowed the candidates to get out and meet with county residents and talk about the issues. Carson said the event was a nice warm-up for the upcoming weeks of campaigning leading up the Nov. 2 election.
Longtime North Routt residents Chuck and B.J. Vale hosted the event. Chuck Vale said the candidate forum is one of many gatherings they've helped organize in the past 40 years. He said the Vales thought it was appropriate for North Routt residents to hear from candidates close to home.
"I'm all for local government," he said. "It should be about the people."