Longtime Aspen cop to run against DiSalvo for sheriff next year
While the election for Pitkin County sheriff isn’t until November 2018, longtime Aspen police officer Walter Chi said last week he plans to run against incumbent Joe DiSalvo.
“I think there needs to be a change,” Chi said. “It’s about doing things that are more efficient … and better for the community.”
Chi, 53, said he’s eligible to retire in August 2018 and plans to campaign for the office during his off hours until his retirement is official. He said he has not yet filed the official paperwork declaring his candidacy.
Chi said he has nothing personal against DiSalvo — who is serving his second four-year term and said last week he plans to run again — but would like to take the Sheriff’s Office in a different direction.
“I’m probably pretty conservative,” Chi said. “More conservative than Joe.”
One of Chi’s main concerns, he said, is that the Sheriff’s Office and the Aspen Police Department have grown too far apart.
“It’s apparent with two different buildings being built within 10 feet of each other,” he said. “When I started, I shared a desk with Joe. Now there’s no shared resources (and) no shared investigations.
“It’s a problem for all of us.”
He said he thinks the two departments should have gotten together and built a joint “criminal justice center” instead of the APD constructing a new building next to a new Pitkin County building that will house the Sheriff’s Office.
“Whether we can change that or not, I don’t know,” Chi said.
Integration of offices and resources would be efficient and pay dividends for taxpayers, he said.
“We should work together more,” he said. “I think that’s been pushed apart right now.”
Beyond that, Chi said he would put more trust in his deputies than DiSalvo does.
“I don’t feel he’s allowing them to be the people they are,” he said. “They have to do certain things during their shift. He does not necessarily let them do the job he was doing under (former Sheriff Bob Braudis’) lead.”
Chi declined to be more specific about exactly what things deputies now have to do he thinks are unreasonable.
Chi also said he’d like to change the way the Sheriff’s Office handles mental health issues, including introducing crisis training similar to what APD officers must complete.
“It’s not just fundraisers,” Chi said, referring to DiSalvo’s hosting of an annual golf tournament that benefits the nonprofit mental health provider, the Aspen Hope Center.
He also said he would provide the District Attorney’s Office “with the support they need in enforcing crimes.”
Chi was born in Minneapolis and grew up in Dubuque, Iowa, where he attended high school and college. He arrived in Aspen in 1990 as a customer service agent for Air Wisconsin, an airline that no longer flies into the valley. However, that job didn’t provide year-round employment so he went looking for steadier work, he said.
That led him to the Aspen Police Department in 1992, where he now works as an assistant patrol supervisor.
“I think it’s a great job,” Chi said. “(It fits) my belief in helping people. I see that as a huge part of law enforcement.”
Chi has continued to work in customer service for airlines in Aspen, which has allowed him to earn free airline travel. He also owns his own plane, a Cessna he pilots weekly.
“This is just a beautiful place to live,” Chi said. “I’m never moving.”
DiSalvo was first elected sheriff in 2010 over several candidates, while he ran unopposed in 2014. On Monday, DiSalvo said he welcomes the competition in 2018.
“It’s a good opportunity to review my accomplishments from the last eight years and to lay out what the next four years will look like,” DiSalvo said. “I look at it as an opportunity to share my message.”
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