GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado - Approximately 100 people watched as Sherry Caloia was sworn in Tuesday as the new 9th District Attorney, and broke into loud applause and cheering after Chief Judge James Boyd completed the ceremony.
"I don't enter into this lightly," Caloia told the roomful of people, many of them district employees, after Boyd swore her in. "I hope to be a very good district attorney, but I couldn't do it without all of you."
Later that morning, Caloia pledged to be aggressive in prosecuting white collar crimes, such as embezzlement, and sexual abuse cases in Pitkin, Garfield and Rio Blanco counties, which make up the 9th District.
After being sworn in, Caloia thanked outgoing DA Martin Beeson and his assistant DA, Jeff Cheney, for their service to the district and for leaving behind "a well equipped office that I can move into."
Cheney and three other deputy DAs - Sandi Kister in Glenwood Springs and Arnold Mordkin and Richard Nedlin in the Aspen DA's office - have been dismissed by Caloia in the wake of the election.
The remaining deputies will be staying on, and there was a palpable sense of optimism in the courtroom on Tuesday.
While most of the deputies approached by the Post Independent at the ceremonies declined to be interviewed for this story, one was not so shy.
"This is absolutely exciting," said deputy district attorney Anthony Hershey, one of those staying with the office. "I'm very excited."
Beeson, emerging from the back of the courtroom after the ceremony, warmly shook Caloia's hand and exchanged a few words with her before she was besieged by well-wishers.
Aside from district employees, the courtroom on Tuesday was jammed with defense attorneys who will be crossing swords with Caloia and her deputies in future criminal cases.
"I expect nothing less than continued fairness and justice from the office of the district attorney," said attorney Peter Rachesky.
Attorney Walt Brown said the change in leadership in the office should benefit the district.
"I think it's a good thing. It's been almost eight years," under Beeson, he said, "and it's probably a good time to flip it over to a new command."
He said he respects Caloia's judgment. Among local attorneys, he said, "She's well regarded."
He noted that the crowd attending the swearing-in ceremony was larger than he had seen at previous DA swearing-in ceremonies.
"It's an indication of support for her and her staff," Brown said.
At a gathering following the ceremonies, Caloia's campaign manager, Leslie Klusmire, presented Caloia with a poster of Our Lady of Guadalupe, a sacred image to native Mexicans and others.
"Sherry is all about integrity and keeping her promises," Klusmire joked, "but I wanted to make sure."
At the top of the poster are the words, "Tough on Real Crime," and at the bottom is the legend, "Good Judgment and Common Sense."
"This is so important, to know that we have a DA now who is culturally sensitive," said Caloia backer Blanca O'Leary of Aspen, chair of the Pitkin County Democratic Party, referring to Caloia's announced intention to hang the image in her office.
During a break from her fans, Caloia said of her initial plans in office, "I have a particular interest in making sure that white collar crimes and embezzlers are prosecuted. I think that's a fairly common thing in the valley."
In addition, she said, she plans to focus on sexual abuse cases, including an effort to revive a SANE (Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner) nurse examination program for local victims of sexual abuse.
Caloia said she hopes to generate a cooperative effort among local governments to find funding to get the program going again.