La Plata County Sheriff Sean Smith announced this week he will run for re-election in November.
Smith, a Democrat, was elected to a four-year term in 2014 when he defeated five-term incumbent Duke Schirard. It marked a dramatic shift for the Sheriff’s Office, which underwent the first change in leadership in two decades.
He described his first term as sheriff as challenging and rewarding, referencing a few high-profile incidents over the last couple of years.
“The Gold King Mine spill happened eight months into my tenure as sheriff,” he said. “I had to deal with multiple layers of incident command systems, which was a big learning curve. I’m proud of how we handled it. There was also the Lightner Creek Fire last year that threatened the city of Durango.”
Durango’s tight-knit community is part of the reason he is seeking re-election.
“This is the first place I ever lived that I felt a real connection and sense of community,” he said. “I raised my family here, and the sense of community makes you want to do even more for the place you love. I am very honored this community took a chance on me.”
Smith has more than 20 years of law enforcement experience, 17 of which was spent at the La Plata County Sheriff’s Office.
One of Smith’s main objectives after unseating Schirard was defining the future of the Sheriff’s Office – something he hopes to continue if re-elected.
“The Sheriff’s Office was on an island; it was not engaged with the community. We worked with a consultant to help define who we are and where we wanted to go,” he said.
If re-elected, he said he plans to continue improving the La Plata County Jail.
Smith referenced an incident in November in which an inmate was suspected of smuggling heroin into the jail, causing other inmates to become ill.
“We are looking at bringing on drug-sniffing canines,” he said.
He also is excited for Lake Nighthorse to open to the public because the Sheriff’s Office is collaborating with Durango Fire Protection District and the Durango Police Department on training to respond to rescue situations on the lake.
“There’s a lot of work that has been started that I would like to continue,” Smith said.
Last year, La Plata County resident Charles Hamby announced his candidacy for the 2018 sheriff’s election. Hamby, a Republican, has 28 years of experience in law enforcement and joined the Southern Ute Tribal Rangers in December 2014.
Hamby said Tuesday he is enjoying “every moment” on the campaign trail and is looking forward to the election.
“My favorite part of this opportunity is listening to our community and hearing their needs and wants for sheriff,” Hamby said. “I look forward to the chance to ... listen to each person in the community.”
Smith said he is not concerned about Hamby’s bid for sheriff; instead, he is focused on his relationship with the community.
“I believe that I have a pretty good track record of success,” he said. “I am hoping that earns us the right to continue what we began.”