Candidates forum draws 60 in Hayden |

Candidates forum draws 60 in Hayden

County sheriff hopefuls again trade jabs

Jack Weinstein
Garrett Wiggins, a candidate for Routt County sheriff, speaks during the candidates forum Wednesday night in Hayden.
Matt Stensland
Attendees of Wednesday night’s candidates forum at the Routt County Fairgrounds Exhibit Hall clap after listening to a candidate.Matt Stensland

— About 60 people attended a forum Wednesday night at the Routt County Fairgrounds Ex­­hibit Hall in Hayden at which 15 candidates spoke.

The forum, hosted by Hayden residents Ray Birch and Rodney McGowen, allowed each candidate, or candidates’ representatives, a minute to introduce themselves. Candidates also answered questions submitted by audience members before the forum.

Like other forums this election season, Routt County sheriff candidates Democrat Gary Wall and Republican Garrett Wiggins traded a few jabs.

Wiggins, commander of the All Crimes Enforcement Team, was asked which of his top 10 goals hadn’t been accomplished by Wall, the incumbent.

“I’d say the majority of them,” Wiggins answered. “I don’t have my goals right here in front of me, but what I will say is that there is a lot of room for improvement. There’s a lack of accountability, a lack of professionalism.”

Wall called the statement “absolutely inaccurate.”

Both men were asked how they would meet the increased demand for Sheriff’s Office services.

Wiggins said the department was responsible for keeping the peace and maintaining the jail. Beyond that, he said he wasn’t familiar with what demand had increased, but he said he would prioritize.

Wall said the Routt County Board of Commissioners always had been fair with him, and even though the need for increased services would be a difficult sell, he would work to articulate their importance. He did mention that he recently was given approval to put defibrillators in Sheriff’s Office patrol cars.

“That’s the most important thing to save someone’s life, and we finally have those,” Wall said.

They also were asked how they saw themselves as role models for the county’s youths regarding drugs and alcohol abuse issues.

“I see myself as a good role model in terms of trying these help these juveniles who get themselves into a drug situation or an alcohol situation,” Wall said. “I am proud to tell you I’m on the drug court team. … We look for ways to help these kids instead of sending them off to some detention center.”

Wiggins said he tries to set a good example for his children.

“I have no convictions, any arrests whatsoever,” he said. “I certainly don’t have a conviction for DUI. I think that makes a statement that I’m living my life the way it should be lived. … I think my life speaks for itself.”

Wall clarified during a rebuttal that he was found guilty of driving while ability impaired, not driving under the influence, a subject he said he addresses on his website.

Candidates in other races were more reserved during the question-and-answer session of the forum.

House District 57

All three candidates for the Colorado House of Represent­atives District 57 seat attended the forum. The candidates were asked how they would find funds to make up for lost revenue if voters approved Proposition 101 and Amendments 60 and 61, ballot measures aimed at reducing government spending and lowering taxes. The question cited a loss in revenue next school year of $2.4 million for the Steamboat Springs School District.

Rep. Randy Baumgardner, R-Hot Sulphur Springs, and challenger Steve Ivancie, a Democrat, said they opposed the measures. Oak Creek resident and former Town Trustee Mike Kien, a Liber­tarian, supports them.

Baumgardner said Colorado’s Amendment 23 is supposed to protect K-12 funding. It’s designed to increase per-pupil funding by the rate of inflation plus 1 percent until 2011. But Baum­gardner said a fiscal emergency was declared last year, and that the funding was reduced to help balance the budget.

“Let’s be realistic here,” he said. “If 60, 61 and 101 does pass, we’re going to have to make sacrifices. That’s not just school districts. That’s every agency in the state. We’ll do our best to keep funds available to fund our schools. And that’s the best answer I can give you because we’ve already cut to the bone, and we don’t know where we’re going to find the money.”

Ivancie said it would be difficult, if not next to impossible, for the state to backfill revenue lost.

“If they were to pass, there will be such an outcry in this community and in this state, we would be forced to find funds to backfill this,” he said. “The state at this point really doesn’t have the ability. What we would have to do is we’d have to cut other core services because the investment in our children and their education is essential to stay competitive in this state.”

Kien said he supported the ballot measures “100 percent.”

“I have a feeling your $2.4 million is an exaggeration,” he said. “We heard all these scare tactics in 1992 when TABOR was approved, and the world didn’t end.”


Darrel Levingston and Kevin Nerney, two candidates for county coroner, cited backgrounds in public service as the reasons they are qualified for the job.

Nerney said he served for 20 years, first as a police officer and then a firefighter, in New York City before he moved his family to the county nine years ago.

“I will bring sympathy and empathy to the people who require the services of the Routt County coroner,” he said.

Levingston cited his 17 years with Routt County Search and Rescue and also said he had plans he’d pursue as coroner.

“I’ll be actively involved in programs that try to reduce the number of preventable deaths in our county, namely suicide prevention,” he said, adding that there are an average of 118 suicide attempts annually in the county.

Coroner Rob Ryg, who is running for re-election, couldn’t attend, but resident Chuck Mc­­Con­­nell spoke on his behalf.

Hayden Town Council

Eight Hayden residents are vying for seats on the Town Council, including four incumbents. Council member Chuck Grobe is running unopposed for mayor. Mayor Lorraine Johnson and council members Jim Has­­kins, Tim Redmond and Tom Rog­­alski are seeking re-election to the council. Pam Gann, Dallas Robinson and Bryan Strickland are opposing them.

Redmond, Robinson and Strick­­land attended the forum. Each was asked how they would attract businesses to the town.

Redmond said he would suggest rolling back tap fees for contractors or possibly implementing a moratorium on sales taxes.

“There are a lot of options, a lot of ideas out there,” he said.

Robinson said Hayden is a town of “grand opportunity” and should promote that.

“Hayden needs to advertise,” he said. “We need to concentrate on how to bring businesses here, how to bring businesses back.”

Strickland admitted he was a novice and didn’t have a suggestion, but he said he wanted to learn how the town’s business worked to do his best for Hayden.

U.S. Congress

State Rep. Scott Tipton, a Republican from Cortez, is opposing Democratic U.S. Rep. John Salazar for Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District. Tipton said the country needs better solutions than what it currently has and cited his 31 years of experience as a small-business owner as a place to start.

“I’ve done what Washington has failed to do,” he said. “I’ve balanced budgets. I’ve had to make tough choices. I’ve created private-sector jobs, and that’s exactly what we need right now.”

Salazar didn’t attend the forum, but a representative spoke on his behalf.

Unopposed candidates

Several candidates running unopposed also attended the forum: Routt County Com­missioner Diane Mitsch Bush, County Clerk Kay Weinland, County Treasurer Jeanne Whid­don and Interim County Assessor Gary Peterson.

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