Two Democrats are vying for La Plata County treasurer – the only locally contested race in the June primary election.
The candidates are incumbent Allison Aichele and Tim Walsworth, who is director of the Durango Business Improvement District.
The Colorado primary election is June 26. Ballots were mailed to voters last week. Ballots should be mailed back no later than June 19.
In the November General Election, the Democratic primary winner will face Republican Colton Black, who is uncontested in the Republican primary.
The treasurer is responsible for collecting and distributing county revenues and collecting property taxes.
Aichele argues that it would be beneficial to re-elect her, as she already knows how to do the job and follow the associated laws. She says that technology implementation has been a large part of her tenure as treasurer, and she wishes to continue updating office systems.
Enhancing technology in the office, she said, will be beneficial for everyone, including young people who are growing up with computer experience. One goal is to integrate all of the different software into one system, she said.
“Who knows what technology’s going to bring in the future, and as the younger generation becomes the property owners, they’re going to expect more, better and safer technology going forward, and that’s what we’re about,” she said.
In March 2017, issues surfaced at the Treasurer’s Office under Aichele’s leadership. She said the department may not have been in compliance with more than 30 out of 70 procedural state statutes, such as routinely reporting certain tax information to county commissioners.
The concerns forced commissioners to order a $12,500 audit of the Treasurer’s Office by an independent agency. The review found rampant errors in processes and bookkeeping.
Errors with cash receipt processing, for instance, were found in one of every 10 transactions; some statements were over- or understated; and other documents lacked proper review.
“That is probably a high error rate compared to what we’re used to seeing,” a representative with the audit company, Axiom, said at the time.
Despite numerous errors, the audit found no wrongdoing.
Aichele, for her part, has said the errors stemmed from problems at the Treasurer’s Office exacerbated by understaffing, outdated technology and workload. She said these troubles have since been fixed and are no longer problems.
Walsworth disagreed, saying these issues are one reason why voters should elect a new treasurer.
“I believe that those mistakes that led to that ought to give the voters some pause,” Walsworth said.
He said he is qualified to be treasurer because of his 20 years of public service with United Way as well as the Durango Business Improvement District.
He said he anticipates two responsibilities as treasurer: financial expertise and leadership. Because the Treasurer’s Office has a small staff and an intense workload, strong leadership and office culture are important, he said.
If elected, Walsworth’s goals are to address policies and procedures that may have led to mistakes in the past, get to know the employees to create a productive culture and utilize the Colorado County Treasurers’ Association, which offers resources to train new treasurers.
New this year, unaffiliated voters can vote in the primary election. They may only vote in one party’s primary. Unaffiliated voters make up more than a third of registered voters in La Plata County.
email@example.com. Herald Staff Writer Jonathan Romeo contributed to this story.