Joe DiSalvo to run for Pitkin County sheriff |

Joe DiSalvo to run for Pitkin County sheriff

ASPEN – Pitkin County Undersheriff Joe DiSalvo on Monday announced his candidacy for sheriff, an elected post that will be vacated by Bob Braudis next January.

Braudis, who has been Pitkin County sheriff since 1986, officially announced this week his plan to retire.

DiSalvo, 49, has worked under Braudis since joining the department in 1987 and has been groomed in recent years to become Braudis’ successor.

“I know he has been thinking about it for a long time,” DiSalvo said. “It’s been known that if Bob ever retired, I would run.

“I think I can do a good job for a lot of people,” he added, saying he’s been performing sheriff duties and responsibilities for months with the absence of Braudis, who fell ill after a European vacation late last year.

“Since November, I’ve been holding onto the steering wheel,” DiSalvo said. “I have felt this responsibility for a while, and I look forward to it in the future.”

DiSalvo said he plans to continue with the sheriff’s department’s philosophy to “live and let live” in a resort community that has a reputation for liberalism and a party atmosphere.

“People like it the way it is,” he said. “I don’t want to be in your life unless you want us in your life.”

But most importantly, DiSalvo said his priority will be to maintain a high level of public safety.

“It’s a philosophy of the sheriff’s office I believe in,” he said. “This is an effort by everybody to keep our community safe.”

DiSalvo began his law enforcement career with the Aspen Police Department in 1985 as a patrol officer. Two and a half years later, he became a patrol officer with the sheriff’s department, was promoted to an investigator, then lead investigator, and eventually undersheriff in January 2006.

DiSalvo said in all of the years he’s been with the department, the current staff of 20 patrol deputies, 12 jail employees, two administrators and one civilian is the best team he’s worked with.

“We all work for each other and with each other,” he said of the longtime veterans and rookies employed by the sheriff’s office.

DiSalvo said that if elected, he plans to continue the office’s current policy on drug enforcement. Like Braudis, he is opposed to the war on drugs, contending addiction should be treated as a health issue, not a crime.

“People have labeled us as social workers, and I think that’s a good thing,” he said of the department’s humanitarian approach to policing.

DiSalvo is a proponent of medical marijuana and said he supports full legalization for adults, adding he does not advocate usage by adolescents, whose minds are still developing.

He said he wouldn’t be surprised if Colorado moves toward full legalization, especially if California’s November ballot question is passed.

When asked about some people’s opinion that Aspen has a drug problem, DiSalvo said, “Compared to who?”

Most of the arrests made by the sheriff’s office are related to alcohol, domestic violence and assaults, he said.

DiSalvo, who completed two years at community college, said he got his education in the field and under the leadership of Braudis, one of the community’s most cherished and respected elected officials.

“My education came from hanging around Bob; he taught me a lot of what I’ve got, and now I’m looking forward to making my own footprint,” DiSalvo said. “People who know me know what they’re going to get.”

Originally from New York, DiSalvo moved to Aspen in 1981 after coming here for a ski vacation.

“Within 10 days I fell in love with this place,” he said, adding he and a friend packed up an old pickup truck and headed West.

DiSalvo said they ran into a snowstorm outside of the Eisenhower Tunnel, lost control of the vehicle and smashed into a semi-truck. All of his belongings were strewn about I-70, and DiSalvo landed in the Vail hospital for a week.

He picked up odd jobs and worked seasonally as a bus driver in Aspen. DiSalvo said he started playing softball with a couple of cops and realized he enjoyed the culture of law enforcement.

DiSalvo said the relationship with the sheriff’s office and the Aspen Police Department – which has been strained in the past under prior police chiefs – is strong.

“Right now, [Police Chief] Richard [Pryor] and I have a good, solid relationship,” he said, adding the two departments offer each other help when in need.

Braudis will serve as DiSalvo’s treasurer for the campaign, and Dede Brinkman, Braudis’ partner, will act as campaign manager for DiSalvo.

The Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office is responsible for 1,000 square miles and about 12,000 residents.

DiSalvo lives in Aspen and is married to Marcy DiSalvo, who owns M Salon on North Spring Street.

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