Garco sheriff, coroner run unopposed
November 2, 2006
Garfield County is seeing one of its hottest election races in years, but the race is a done deal for two local candidates.Sheriff Lou Vallario is standing unopposed for his second four-year term. Vallario beat out two-term incumbent Democrat Tom Dalessandri in the 2003 election. A Republican and a 15-year veteran of the Glenwood Springs Police Department, Vallario campaigned on a promise of an open-door policy for citizens and to improve the service and response time of deputies for Garfield County residents.This year, Vallario faced one of his toughest tests while in office. In June, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a class action lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Denver against him on behalf of four inmates who claimed jail staff had repeatedly abused them.Last month Vallario formally denied the allegations, including the use of pepper spray, restraint chairs and electric shock belts, to control unruly inmates and claimed the prisoners’ own actions have determined how they had to be treated.Also facing a shoe-in election this year is County Coroner William “Trey” Holt. First elected coroner in 1994, Holt replaced Orval Sowder. He had served as deputy coroner under Sowder since 1986, when he moved to Glenwood Springs from Cañon City.Holt, who owns the Farnum Holt Funeral Home in Glenwood Springs, is a fourth-generation funeral director. He is also the owner of the Rifle Funeral Home.As coroner, Holt has seen his share of fatalities. In July 1994, he was in charge of identifying the remains of 14 firefighters who died in the Storm King Fire in Glenwood Springs. He also aided the Pitkin County Sheriff’s office in the deadly plane crash near the Pitkin County Airport in March 2001, which killed all 18 people on board.State Rep. Kathleen Curry, D-Gunnison, is also unchallenged this year. Curry, who is running for her second two-year term, represents House District 61, which includes eastern Garfield County, Pitkin, Gunnison and Hillsdale counties and the Roaring Fork Valley portion of Eagle County.Curry replaced Republican Gregg Rippy, of Glenwood Springs, who didn’t seek re-election after two terms. She faced off against New Castle Republican Becky Rippy (Gregg’s cousin), in the 2004 election. Curry ran on a platform of protecting Western Slope water and as a freshman legislator was appointed to head up the Agriculture, Livestock and Natural Resources Committee.Also during her first year in the legislature, she sponsored House Bill 1219, that would have required compensation for property damage from oil and gas operations, as determined by an appraiser or arbitration. The bill died in the House Agriculture Committee.This year Curry introduced HB 1185, which would have required mineral owners to pay surface owners whose property or land values are damaged by oil and gas operations.Several environmental and property rights organizations that had backed Curry’s legislative efforts criticized the bill because they believed it had a loophole that would exempt the industry from having to provide any compensation.Curry and co-sponsor Jim Isgar, D-Hesperus, withdrew the bill from further consideration because of the objections.