Matt Salka, the former mayor of Bayfield, pulled ahead of local rancher Charly Minkler to win the race for District 3 on the La Plata County Board of County Commissioners.
An update at 9:45 p.m. showed Salka with 55% of the vote.
La Plata County Clerk & Recorder Tiffany Parker said Salka had won the race. Salka will replace outgoing Commissioner Julie Westendorff, also a Democrat, who is term-limited.
“I’m grateful,” Salka said. “I’m excited to get back to work.”
Both candidates tried to capture the rural vote, with Minkler highlighting his background in agriculture and ranching, and Salka reminding residents of his time as mayor of Bayfield.
County Commissioner - District 3
Matthew Salka vs. Charly Minkler
District 3 covers Bayfield and eastern parts of the county, where some residents for years have complained they have not been represented on the county commission, which is voted on at-large.
Salka moved to Bayfield in 2000 and started an information technology company and a pest-control business. He was also on the Bayfield Board of Trustees and was the secretary for the La Plata County Economic Development Alliance.
“The experience as mayor of Bayfield really helped me get to where I’m at right now,” Salka said. “I think I will be a great representative for everyone in La Plata County.”
As seemed to be the theme in this year’s election for commissioner, both candidates stressed the need to make it easy for development in La Plata County, which would be a gateway to solving other issues, like affordable housing.
“I’m really worried about that,” Salka said.
Minkler moved to the county from the Denver area in 1982 and started a construction business, and through his wife, got into agriculture. He has served on the La Plata County Farm Bureau and the county’s Planning Commission.
“I’m kind of surprised, but that’s the way it goes,” Minkler said. “I would like to thank all the county residents that supported and believed in me.”
As was the case with the race for District 2, Minkler and Salka ran an amiable campaign, other than Salka accusing Minkler of being a Republican but running unaffiliated to pick up independent votes.
Minkler, for his part, has been open that he is a moderate conservative, yet chose to run unaffiliated, saying the county commission should not be about politics.