ASPEN - Steve Child acknowledged Tuesday night that he never got comfortable approaching strangers and trying to sell himself as a candidate for Pitkin County commissioner during this fall's campaign. His opponent, John B. Young, was much better in that arena, he said.
Shyness didn't hurt Child. He defeated Young handily for the District 4 seat being vacated by Jack Hatfield because of term limits. Child won with 4,413 votes to Young's 3,595, or a margin of 55 to 45 percent, according to the final preliminary results released by the Pitkin County Clerk and Recorder's Office. Incumbent commissioners Michael Owsley and George Newman were unopposed and re-elected for four-year terms.
"I'm just kind of blown away from that kind of margin," Child said of his victory.
He figured the race would be "nose to nose" when the votes were counted. "I was mentally prepared for it, to lose," he said.
Child said the contrast of their campaign approaches might have helped him.
"I think a lot of it would be our style of campaigning," he said, when asked what resonated with voters. "I was quieter, more laid back."
But Child said he believes he also came across as more reasonable and more likely to think out his approach to issues. Young became a one-issue candidate against natural gas drilling, according to Child.
"I have a really strong and long environmental record on a number of issues," Child said.
Young was shell-shocked by margin of defeat. He campaigned relentlessly by knocking on doors and standing with a sign in the S-curves of Aspen to greet commuters. He said it was impossible to determine why the race turned out the way it did. Child's advantage was likely getting the Democratic party endorsement even though Pitkin County holds non-partisan races. Candidates can seek party designations but they aren't required.
"Obviously it's a difficult thing to overcome when you don't have the 'D' by your name," Young said. "I really don't think it was an issue-oriented thing."
Child also had name recognition going for him. His father, Bob Child, was a rancher and multi-term Pitkin County commissioner who fought for preservation of agricultural lands and prevention of rampant growth.
Steve Child, 64, continues to operate a portion of his family's cattle ranch on Capitol Creek Road with his wife, Molly. He is also a shuttle-bus driver, former teacher and school bus driver, cross-country ski instructor, former snowcat operator and snowmaker.
He said he will try not to create pressure on himself to match his dad's accomplishments in elected office. "He set a pretty high bar for being a county commissioner," Child said.
One issue Child will concentrate on is making new and remodeled county facilities such as the airport terminal as energy neutral as possible. The technology exists to accomplish the goal, he said.
Child looks forward to taking office and working with his new colleagues starting in January. He and his wife are headed to the Virgin Islands Wednesday for a week-long vacation with friends from the Roaring Fork Valley. Child said he looks forward to snorkeling and entering a world as foreign to him as campaigning.