Caloia might leave town, but proud of tenure as district attorney
The recent election that saw voters remove her as district attorney left Sherry Caloia disappointed, angry and with at least one regret.
“I’m not sure I should have run for that second term,” she said Friday. “It took a lot of energy and it took away from the running of the office.
“People became concerned, and it started getting ugly and I’m not sure that was good for the office at all.”
Caloia, who easily carried Pitkin County in the 9th Judicial District, said she thinks she might have won the election if not for Chip McCrory, who ran as an independent. Then again, it might not have made a difference, she said.
“It was not unexpected to lose, especially with the national elections being what they were,” Caloia said. “Garfield and Rio Blanco counties are Republican and very right-wing.”
The 9th Judicial District is made up of Pitkin, Rio Blanco and Garfield counties.
In fact, the ugliness of the campaign and the attacks by people she didn’t know took such a toll on her and her family that Caloia — a 28-year resident of Glenwood Springs — said she might not even remain in the area after she leaves office Jan. 10.
“I would absolutely think about moving,” she said. “It sure seems like I made a bunch of enemies here.”
A more likely scenario, Caloia said, is that she will remain in Glenwood Springs and continue to practice law in the fields of water, divorce and child custody, though not criminal cases. But, on Friday, she wouldn’t even commit to that.
About the only thing in her future Caloia is sure about is not running for office again.
“Nope, never,” she said without hesitation. “I am definitive on that.
“I am not a politician. I say what I mean and I do what I say and that isn’t what a politician does.”
Still, Caloia said she’s proud of the job done by her office during the past four years.
In particular, she pointed to a sexual assault nurse exam program, where both victims of sexual assault and suspects can be examined by a trained nurse for signs of an assault. That program did not exist before she took office, and is set to be funded for the next two years, Caloia said.
She’s also proud of a diversion program focused on keeping young people charged with minor crimes out of the criminal justice system. That program takes 70 to 80 people a year charged with crimes like minor in possession of alcohol or marijuana or harassment and allows them to complete a program designed to change their behavior. If that is successfully done, the person is released without a criminal record, she said.
“Our young people do stupid things,” Caloia said. “For them to be able to escape the system without a criminal record is important.”
And while it certainly caused tension with some area law enforcement agencies — in particular Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario — Caloia is proud of not being a rubber stamp for police. The courts are meant to check the district attorney’s work and the District Attorney’s Office is meant to check the work of law enforcement, Caloia said.
“It’s meant to protect the rights of citizens,” she said. “Once you lose, I think you have a police state, and I wouldn’t prefer that.”
Caloia also touted her office’s judgment about which cases to take to trial, her prosecutors’ trial record and the lack of controversy that marked her tenure.
“I’m not saying police were happy or everyone was happy, but it went rather smoothly,” she said.
Most importantly, Caloia said she is glad to have “done the right thing.”
“I’m most proud of sticking to my guns and not being somebody that thinks we just have to charge the heck out of every case and make people criminals,” she said. “(I’m proud) of being even-handed, being fair and not being afraid of doing what I believe, even though the consequences are not that great.”
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Many members of the community wrote to laud the former Skico executive and city councilman for his friendship, dedication to family and community-minded spirit over more than two decades in Aspen.