Race for sheriff likely to draw big field

A year and a half before Mesa County voters will elect a new sheriff, the names of several local law-enforcement veterans are being bandied about as potential candidates to succeed Sheriff Stan Hilkey.

Among them, Palisade Police Chief Carroll Quarles expressed the most interest when contacted by The Daily Sentinel, saying he is seriously considering running for the position.

“I’m pretty serious about it,” he said. “It’s a little early to come right out and say, ‘Yeah, we’re going to do it.’ ”

Quarles, the police chief in Palisade for 14 years, said he is putting together a campaign team and has been attending Mesa County Republican Party meetings to meet people and put his name out there.

Quarles said he is considering running because he would like a new challenge. He said he began thinking about it last summer and indicated several people asked him if he would consider running.

“I’m not tired of Palisade. I love Palisade,” he said. “I’m at the age in my life where if I’m going to try to serve in a larger capacity, it’s now or never. I believe I am experienced enough and have enough to offer that people should take a good, strong look at me.”

Other names that have been tossed around in local circles include Undersheriff Rebecca Spiess, Grand Junction police Cmdr. Greg Assenmacher and state Rep. Steve King, who worked for years for both the Grand Junction police and Mesa County sheriff’s departments.

Spiess, who joined the Mesa County Sheriff’s Department in 2004 and was named undersheriff in 2006, said it’s too early for her to show any serious interest in the job. She and Hilkey acknowledged he is planning for his successor, and part of that work includes “developing people for opportunities within the organization.”

But “for me to say to you that I’m going to (run for sheriff) is inappropriate because it’s way too early,” said Spiess, who started her law-enforcement career as a police officer in Lakewood in 1977 before spending 20 years doing fraud investigations for several banks.

Assenmacher, a 28-year veteran of the Grand Junction Police Department, said he’s dedicated to the department, but he plans to evaluate the potential candidates for sheriff and what they may offer to the county.

“If at that time I feel that I possess the leadership qualities that may better serve the community and the Mesa County Sheriff’s Department, I then will commit my energy to this endeavor and calling,” he wrote in an e-mail.

King didn’t directly answer the question when asked if he intended to seek Hilkey’s job.

“You know, at this point, my intention is to make it through the next 20 days in the House of Representatives. If I make it through that, I will sit down and plan my future,” said King, who was elected to House District 54 in 2006 and re-elected last year.

Mesa County Democratic Party Chairwoman Martelle Daniels said she’s not sure at this point whether the Democrats will field a candidate.

“I’ve been talking to a few qualified people, and there’s some interest in it, but I’m not sure they think they’re ready to commit to the next race,” Daniels said without identifying anybody by name.

Hilkey, who was elected in 2002, is term-limited next year. He pushed to have term limits for his office eliminated in 2007, but voters rejected a ballot measure.

The sheriff said it’s too early for him to endorse his successor, although he acknowledged that much of his planning “involves a lot of conversations with my undersheriff.”

“There is some career interest of mine to see this agency be healthy and carry forward the good work that we’re doing,” he said.


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