Voters extend terms for Mesa County officials

Photo by Gretel Daugherty—Mesa County Sheriff Stan Hilkey and his wife Kristen smile broadly as they check the latest results on the term limit extension issue in the old Mesa County Courthouse annex community room Tuesday.

The voters of Mesa County decided the terms of office for sheriff, district attorney and coroner should be extended by one, four-year term, allowing them to serve three terms or 12 years.

A citizens group, the Citizens Three Term Initiative, was formed and campaigned for the issue saying the offices suffer unduly by changing leadership every eight years.

For Mesa County Sheriff Stan Hilkey, 44, the vote means he can run for another term as sheriff. Hilkey would have been term-limited out of office in 2010 if the election had not gone the way it did.

“The voters willing, I’d love to have the honor of serving another four years,” Hilkey said.

The outcome this year was different from a similar question asked in 2007. At that time, voters were asked to remove all term limits from the sheriff’s office. The measure failed 51.7 percent to 48.3 percent.

The unofficial outcome this time around, with most of the votes counted as of 8:35 p.m., was 58 percent in favor of extending term limits for the sheriff’s office and 42 percent against, out of 27,327 votes.

Hilkey said he especially wanted to thank all the people who worked to extend term limits for all three offices.

“It is always gratifying to see a lot of hard work pay off,” he said.

District Attorney Pete Hautzinger, who is not up for re-election until 2012, said the percentages in the votes showed that the residents of Mesa County separated the personalities of the office holders from the office when making their decisions.

“I don’t think it was personality-driven at all,” Hautzinger said.

Hautzinger, who said it was too early for him to announce any bid for re-election, speculated that the voters saw each office as more of a profession than a political seat. To prove his point he referenced the numbers. Voters decided to extend term limits for the coroner’s office by the largest margin of the three, 65 percent to 35 percent. The district attorney’s office, the office Hautzinger said could be perceived as the most political office of the three, had the tightest margin of victory, 55 percent to 45 percent.

Former Mesa County Sheriff Riecke Claussen was a member of the Citizens Three Term Initiative. He said the group is a nonpartisan bunch that worked for what they think is best for Mesa County.

“We believe it will make it a better county,” he said. “Unneeded change is very expensive.”


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