County commission to appoint sheriff’s replacement
Stan Hilkey’s pending departure from the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office to take over as the state’s public safety chief sets up the prospect of political musical chairs that could begin and end with the county commission.
Hilkey recommended on Thursday that the commission appoint his undersheriff, Rebecca Spiess, to complete his unexpired term.
Commissioners on Monday are to get legal advice about how to proceed, if at all. Spiess could simply take over the job on Hilkey’s June 16 departure date. But Commissioner Rose Pugliese said she would like to see the commission act and that commissioners would consider Hilkey’s recommendation “pretty strongly,” noting that Spiess is familiar with the operations of the office and is well-respected by the staff.
Hilkey gave Spiess a vote of confidence in his resignation letter to the commission on Thursday, saying that Spiess acts as his chief of staff “and has a complete grasp on the current state of affairs in the office ... She is, simply, exceedingly ready and able to complete this term and serve our citizens with the same, or better, excellence seen in the Sheriff’s Office under my leadership.”
Hilkey cited the state Constitution and state law in noting that Spiess would automatically become sheriff with his departure, pending action by the commission.
Spiess would become Mesa County’s first woman sheriff, Pugliese noted.
The commission isn’t bound by Hilkey’s recommendation to appoint Spiess. It could look elsewhere, possibly at state Sen. Steve King, who is giving up his Senate seat to run to replace Hilkey, or to John Pennington, who ran an upstart campaign to capture the top line at the GOP county convention last month, setting up a Republican primary with King.
Voters will decide who goes on in the June 24 primary election.
If the commission takes no action pending the outcome of the primary and then appoints King, presuming he wins, then a series of dominoes would fall.
A vacancy committee then would have to choose someone to complete King’s unexpired term — an action that could become critical should Gov. John Hickenlooper call the Legislature into special session.
Hilkey’s predecessor, Riecke Claussen, was appointed in 2004 to complete the unexpired term of Gayle Berry, who resigned from her post in House District 55.
State Rep. Ray Scott would be the logical political choice to replace King as he faces a challenge for the Senate seat from Democrat Claudette Konola.
Presumably, Scott’s seat then would be filled by either Commissioner Steve Acquafresca or Dan Thurlow, the Republicans who will face off in the June 24 primary. Democrat Chris Kennedy would be their general election opponent.
If a District 55 vacancy committee selects Acquafresca to fill that post, a county vacancy committee then would have to fill his seat, for which Scott McInnis, a former U.S. Representative, is running against Democrat Mark Williams.