You might recognize new Aspen jail director’s name
The identity of the new director of the Pitkin County Jail might surprise those familiar with Roaring Fork Valley politics.
Her name is Kim Vallario and she’s married to Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario, whose conservative brand of politics might not line up with that of many Pitkin County residents. Kim Vallario also is the current director of the much-larger Garfield County Jail, where she’s worked for most of the past 15 years.
“Sure, I absolutely get that,” Kim Vallario said Tuesday when asked about the inevitable surprise some might display after learning of her family ties. “(But) whether you’re liberal or conservative, it doesn’t affect how you treat inmates in your facility.
“I tell new deputies to treat inmates like you would treat your grandmother.”
The philosophy jibes with that of former Jail Director Don Bird, who recently retired after 27 years at the helm, as well as Pitkin County Sheriff Joe DiSalvo.
“Philosophically she matches us amazingly,” DiSalvo said. “She runs a very respectful jail environment.”
And while DiSalvo said he respects Lou Vallario and recognizes that both men work for very different communities, there’s one significant factor he emphasized in Kim Vallario’s hiring.
“I’m not hiring Lou,” he said. “I’m hiring his wife. I think she’s going to be right for us.”
For his part, Lou Vallario said that while he can see people judging his wife based on their perception of his politics, it’s really beside the point.
“Politics has nothing to do with it,” he said. “Her skill set … is what’s important.”
The arrangement also has another perk he likes.
“Joe’s able to pay her more than I can pay her,” Lou Vallario said.
DiSalvo said he’s gotten to know Kim Vallario over the past few years from professional interactions and running into her and her husband at conferences.
“I always liked her,” DiSalvo said. “So I told her Don was looking to retire … and I jokingly threw (a job offer) out there.”
A day or two later, she said she was interested, he said, and they began talking seriously about it.
The job was never formally posted and didn’t have to be, Pitkin County Manager Jon Peacock said. Kim Vallario, 55, was offered a one-year contract at $117,000, which can be renewed on a year or two-year basis in the future, according to Peacock and DiSalvo.
Kim Vallario’s first day on the job will be April 16.
One of the things DiSalvo said he liked about Kim Vallario is her extensive leadership and supervisory training, as well as her many hours of training in risk management and de-escalation tactics.
In her time at the Garfield County Jail, Kim Vallario said she concentrated on improving staff morale and staff retention, which have both improved significantly. She also helped start the jail’s anti-gang unit.
She said she looks at the job as a new challenge and a chance to help improve the already-solid Pitkin County Jail. The move from a 200-plus bed jail to a 20-bed jail will certainly be different, she said.
“I feel like I can help take Pitkin County to the next level,” Kim Vallario said. “It’s all about public safety and keeping the community safe.”
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