Voters in Arapahoe County and all over the state made their voices heard loud and clear last week: Residents here have no business electing government administrators.
The shocking and illogical party-line votes in Arapahoe County and elsewhere shined a new and ugly light on the state’s arcane partisan way it empowers mundane government administrators.
A Sentinel Colorado story this week by reporter Quincy Snowdon focuses into the county’s new sheriff: Tyler Brown.
Brown, a Democrat, is 35 and currently a police officer in Mountain View.
Never heard of it? It’s a sort of a 12-block town of less than 600 people tucked between Wheat Ridge and Lakeside. It’s claim to fame is how the town makes money. A joint 9News-Rocky Mountain PBS investigation in 2014 and beyond revealed that the townlette is a notorious ticket farm. Stories made public that the municipality makes up to half its revenue by having its 10-person police force hand out a mountain of tickets for things like having an air-freshener hanging from a rear-view mirror or driving a car with a cracked windshield.
The Arapahoe County sheriff oversees a staff of deputies and jail employees nearly as large as the town Brown is now policing. He previously was a police officer for a short time in Northglenn, and before that, a code enforcement officer in Aurora.
He’s a smart and affable man. And he may eventually make a good sheriff. But if Brown were applying for a similar top police job in any county or city in the country, he wouldn’t even get an interview because of his lack of ranking experience.
The current sheriff, Dave Walcher, virtually has a lifetime of experience. He also boasts rave reviews from local officials and peers across the political spectrum as a solid lawman.
He lost last week’s election because a “blue wave” of votes for Democrats washed over just about every Republican in the county.
Walcher is a Republican.
The county has long been a Republican stronghold, so despite the recent anti-Trump, anti-Walker Stapleton sentiment, the down-ballot outrage for all things Republican was surprising.
The same thing happened to Arapahoe County assessor and clerk incumbents. Both were tossed out last week by voters only because they were Republicans.
Voters have just elected a Democratic Realtor to run one of biggest and most complex property tax assessment offices in the state, throwing out an esteemed pro who’s worked as a professional for years.
The county assessor, clerk, treasurer, coroner and sheriff have no more to do with partisan politics than does the employee who plows the roads.
At the very least, these should be non-partisan offices, but for the sake of the public, they should be appointed by the county commission in the same way cities like Aurora appoint its police chief and top administrative officials.
State lawmakers this year should create legislation to permit and encourage counties to end the ludicrous partisan pandemonium for all elected positions, but especially administrative ones.
Better yet, counties should be required to end the pioneer-days notion of electing these positions. They’re important enough to require specific skills, experience and much more accountability and scrutiny than they now get just once every four years. And these positions are far too important to be decided by the political whims of voters taking out their righteous disdain for politics in Washington and Denver against down-ballot elected officials with the wrong letter at the end of their name on the ballot.