GOP race pits 2-term sheriff against detective who wants to wear the star

QUICKREAD

ON THE ISSUES

Here’s what incumbent Lou Vallario and challenger Doug Winters had to say about some key issues in the Garfield County sheriff Republican primary race:

On Vallario’s controversial purchase of a $236,000 armored vehicle:

•  Winters questions the purchase in the current economy and wonders what other options were explored. “I don’t know if it was a needed expense right now,” he said.

•  Vallario, citing the recent arrest in Rifle of an escaped Arizona murder convict after he allegedly shot at an officer,  said the county is changing, and the vehicle’s cost is warranted to be able to better protect county residents and deputies. “How much money do you waste protecting police officers’ lives? I haven’t found that dollar figure yet,” he said.

On lawsuits filed against Vallario and his office over issues such as treatment of jail inmates:

•  Vallario said such lawsuits come with the job, and he will spend the money necessary to defend against them. “Lawsuits are lawsuits, and any idiot can file one,” he said.

•  Winters said he understands lawsuits against law enforcement are common, but he questions whether training or policy problems are contributing to their number in Garfield County.  “We need to look at those and see why we have had so many of them pop up all at once,” he said.

On Vallario’s decision to impose increased background checks on search-and-rescue volunteers, an action questioned by some of the volunteers:

•  Vallario said he felt a responsibility to implement the heightened checks, which also apply to other Sheriff’s Department volunteer programs, but the issue has been resolved by a new agreement with the search-and-rescue organization that makes it a more autonomous group with more control over matters such as volunteer screening.

•  Winters said that agreement shows Vallario conceded on the issue, but the heightened checks created lingering animosity for some volunteers. There is a need to screen out serious criminals, but the fact that a volunteer is in bankruptcy doesn’t matter during a rescue, “as long as they can do the job of getting you out of there safely,” he said.

On the issues

Here’s what incumbent Lou Vallario and challenger Doug Winters had to say about some key issues in the Garfield County sheriff Republican primary race:

On Vallario’s controversial purchase of a $236,000 armored vehicle:

• Winters questions the purchase in the current economy and wonders what other options were explored.

“I don’t know if it was a needed expense right now,” he said.

• Citing the recent arrest in Rifle of an escaped Arizona murder convict after he allegedly shot at an officer, Vallario said the county is changing, and the vehicle’s cost is warranted to be able to better protect county residents and deputies.

“How much money do you waste protecting police officers’ lives? I haven’t found that dollar figure yet,” he said.

On lawsuits filed against Vallario and his office over issues such as treatment of jail inmates:

• Vallario said such lawsuits come with the job, and he will spend the money necessary to defend against them.

“Lawsuits are lawsuits, and any idiot can file one,” he said.

• Winters said he understands lawsuits against law enforcement are common, but he questions whether training or policy problems are contributing to their number in Garfield County.

“We need to look at those and see why we have had so many of them pop up all at once,” he said.

On Vallario’s decision to impose increased background checks on search-and-rescue volunteers, an action questioned by some of the volunteers:

• Vallario said he felt a responsibility to implement the heightened checks, which also apply to other Sheriff’s Department volunteer programs, but the issue has been resolved by a new agreement with the search-and-rescue organization that makes it a more autonomous group with more control over matters such as volunteer screening.

• Winters said that agreement shows Vallario conceded on the issue, but the heightened checks created lingering animosity for some volunteers. There is a need to screen out serious criminals, but the fact that a volunteer is in bankruptcy doesn’t matter during a rescue, “as long as they can do the job of getting you out of there safely,” he said.



A Republican primary race for Garfield County sheriff pits a challenger who wants to bring new ideas and a new attitude to the job against an incumbent who says his experience gives him the clear edge.

Sheriff Lou Vallario is running for a third, four-year term. Doug Winters, a Rifle resident and Eagle County Sheriff’s Department detective, is his primary challenger. The winner will go on to face Democrat Tom Dalessandri in November. Dalessandri was sheriff for eight years before being defeated by Vallario in 2002.

Winters has focused much of his campaign on the Sheriff’s Department budget and his belief there needs to be an increased emphasis on community policing by deputies.

“We need to be thinking outside the box, looking at areas to try to improve service and yet cut back on spending,” he said.

Winters says he would bring “back-to-the-basics” thinking to the department and is a very approachable person who would have an open-door policy for the public as well as employees.

But Vallario said that while he respects Winters, his opponent doesn’t have the r&233;sum&233; necessary for the job. By comparison, Vallario gained supervisory experience as a Glenwood Springs police lieutenant before running for sheriff.

“You don’t go from learning how to work your iPod to being the CEO of Apple Computer. It just doesn’t work that way; there’s a process,” he said.

Winters said a supervisory background isn’t necessary to run the Sheriff’s Department. His plan is to make sure the right people are in place to help run things.

“And then I can focus on budgetary issues and being in the community and finding out their wants and needs,” he said.

Winters questions the millions of dollars in budget increases under Vallario’s watch.

He thinks the Sheriff’s Department is top-heavy with administrators and in need of more deputies on the streets, responding to calls and spending more time with the public and getting to know the community better.

“I believe a proactive law enforcement group reduces crime in the long run,” he said.

Vallario makes no apologies for growing his budget during a time when the county’s population increased and call volumes more than doubled.

He said he has added animal-control services, 24-hour patrols and numerous community educational and outreach programs.

“To me the buzzword ‘community policing’ is less important than what we’re already providing,” he said.

Winters sees a certain arrogance in Vallario’s management style. He believes there’s an employee-morale problem that includes concern about what would happen if employees supported someone else for sheriff, and he questions Vallario’s decision to have a relationship with a female supervisory employee in the jail.

“I think that can cloud judgment and cloud decision-making, and that’s inappropriate,” he said.

Vallario has said he has encouraged employees to support whomever they want for sheriff. He sees the relationship as a personal matter and said he thinks voters should be considering whether they like the services his office is providing.

“If you’re happy with that, that’s what you need to focus on,” he said.


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