Rematch pending in Garfield sheriff race

For years, Tom Dalessandri has watched the decisions of his successor as Garfield County sheriff and not liked some of what he has seen.

Now, the Democrat says he plans to seek a rematch with Sheriff Lou Vallario, the Republican who defeated the incumbent Dalessandri in 2002.

The race would pit against each other two men with long track records as sheriff. Dalessandri had served two, four-year terms before being defeated by 1,500 votes in the race against Vallario, now in his eighth year.

Vallario ran uncontested four years ago. His second term of office has been controversial at times, thanks to issues ranging from his decision to require criminal background checks for search and rescue volunteers, to his romantic relationship with an employee in his department.

Dalessandri said the key issues for him are leadership and the growth of the Sheriff’s Department’s budget since he left office.

“I have real concerns about the amount of money that’s been spent and where it’s been spent,” Dalessandri said.

Dalessandri specifically criticized what he said is a proposal by Vallario for a $3 million new facility in Rifle, and the money Vallario spent on what Dalessandri called a “war wagon.”

That’s a reference to a $235,000 armored vehicle Vallario purchased for use in responding to situations such as ones involving armed suspects.

“Those vehicles are never good investments when they sit there idle most of the time,” Dalessandri said.

Vallario did not return calls for comment Friday. He and his office have defended the vehicle’s purchase because of the threat that can be presented to officers and the community by criminals such as drug dealers.

Vallario’s office recently announced it came in $2.1 million under budget last year.

No one else from either party has entered the sheriff’s race. Jim Sears, an unaffiliated voter who had worked in high-level positions under both Vallario and Dalessandri, said this week he had considered running for sheriff before deciding he didn’t think he’d enjoy the job much. He said he also wasn’t anxious to run against Vallario, who is his friend.

“I personally think Lou’s doing a good job,” Sears said.


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