La Plata County Sheriff Sean Smith, a Democrat, is running for re-election this fall against Republican Charles Hamby and independent candidate Dean Mize. Experienced in law enforcement, Both Hamby and Mize are qualified, but there is more to being sheriff than a good résumé.
Curiously, both cite their dismay with our sharpening political divide as a motive behind their runs. “As La Plata County sheriff, I will base my decisions on the safety and protection of the citizens in this community, not their political views,” said Hamby. Mize stated, “One major element in my decision to run … is the disheartened feeling I have at the polarization that the Republicans and the Democrats have created.”
Implying that Smith’s performance is influenced by his party affiliation seems dishonest to us. Are his challengers inventing partisan problems because they can find no legitimate points of criticism?
Looking back on the challenges Smith and his department have faced during his first term – the Redwine case, the Gold King Mine spill, the Lightner Creek Fire, the opening of Lake Nighthorse, the 416 Fire and more – we see a record of competent, capable and unslanted public service.
Blaming Smith for the local homeless issue is equally disingenuous. He has done much to improve the county’s relationship with its homeless residents. And that may be the rub.
Hamby has stated the solution to the homeless problem lies with strict enforcement, but Smith knows better. “I have not found one community that has enforced its way out of the problem,” he said.
We need a sheriff who understands complex issues and the legalities surrounding them. Fortunately, he is already in office: We vote to re-elect Sheriff Sean Smith.
La Plata County TreasurerWe rarely see the county treasurer’s office at the center of public attention. And why should it be? It functions best in the background, safeguarding the county’s funds and investments, maintaining the public’s trust.
Unfortunately, that has not been the case under the direction of incumbent Allison Aichele. While she has done much to modernize the office, she has also drawn much unwanted attention. A special audit of the office in 2017 revealed a higher-than-usual rate of errors. As a result, La Plata County was reclassified from a low-risk to a high-risk auditee, and annual audit costs have gone up significantly.
Aichele was also fined by the Colorado Secretary of State’s office for violating campaign finance laws by not reporting funds she donated to her own campaign. While the fee was waived and a complaint against her dismissed upon her explanation, the confidence of many county residents in Aichele has been shaken.
Republican Colton Black, a local rancher and a banker with Wells Fargo in Durango, contends he can do the job more efficiently, and without the distractions and additional costs.
“We need to address this issue,” Black said. “With declining revenue, we can’t afford to be spending public money on more expensive audits.”
We agree, and we also like his plan to bring the county’s investment management back in house, saving the $55,000 now paid to an outside firm each year. We’re not sure he can pull that off, but we commend the direction of his thinking.
Black says he’s committed to staying in the county and doing the job. He has the credentials, training and financial acumen to manage the treasurer’s office competently. We also trust he can do so quietly. We vote for Colton Black.