After sheriff’s showdown, candidates catch breath, consider what’s to come |

After sheriff’s showdown, candidates catch breath, consider what’s to come

Garfield County Sheriff-elect Lou Vallario said his defeat of incumbent Tom Dalessandri was still sinking in on Wednesday.

“It feels good for just the instinctual competitiveness in me,” he said. “I’m exhausted, and I’m kind of numb, but I feel good.”

According to final unofficial election results issued after midnight Wednesday, Vallario topped Dalessandri 7,567-6,067, by a margin of exactly 1,500 votes, or 11 percent.

Looking at his new job from a somewhat ironic perspective, Vallario joked that he just gave up his successful 15-year career with the Glenwood Springs Police Department for a job that could leave him unemployed in four years. He is currently the department’s lieutenant, the No. 2 position.

The 42-year-old Republican said his first priority as Garfield County sheriff is to “get the manpower situation under control.”

Vallario said he must fill the open positions in the sheriff’s department, especially if he is to follow through with his promise to improve the service and response time of deputies for Garfield County residents.

“I think we can accomplish that,” he said.

“I’ve already had friends call me from all over the state,” he said, adding that some expressed interest in possibly joining the department under his leadership.

Vallario said he’s not sure why Sheriff Tom Dalessandri, 48, a Carbondale Democrat, had problems keeping people. Vallario said he’ll try to remedy any problems he sees once he takes office on Jan. 14.

“I think maybe some of the enthusiasm is lacking,” he said of the department under Dalessandri’s leadership.

Any hostility shown during the campaign seemed to have died out by Wednesday morning, Vallario said.

“He called to congratulate me,” Vallario said, adding that the two will sit down next week to discuss how to handle the transition.

“I don’t know how the transition is going to go,” Vallario said. “Potentially there could be some upper-management changes.”

As far as other staff in the sheriff’s office, he said he’d look at them on a person-by-person basis.

“It’s not like I’m going to go in there and make sweeping changes. This is not the Lou Vallario Sheriff’s Department, it’s the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office, and I’m going to be running it for the next four years,” he said.

Vallario explained the basics of his plan to improve service for Garfield County residents.

“By getting the manpower filled, you can get more deputies spread out around the county,” he said. “The No. 1 priority is getting those slots filled.”

He’ll then split the county into four zones, thereby lessening the distance traveled by deputies for each call. Under Dalessandri’s plan, it’s divided in three zones.

“The other thing probably is culture,” Vallario said of the changes he envisions. “It starts from the top down.”

In addition to hiring more deputies, Vallario also said he’ll create two more investigator positions.

“An idea we have is that officers take initial reports, then further reports get bumped up to the investigators,” he explained.

This system, he said, will let deputies work the streets instead of doing paperwork in the office.

Initial discussions have also begun in the search for Vallario’s replacement at the Glenwood Springs Police Department, he said.

“We’ll probably have my replacement decided before I leave,” he said. “That way I can train him.”

Garfield County Sheriff Tom Dalessandri seemed upbeat on Wednesday despite Tuesday’s loss to Lou Vallario in the Garfield County Sheriff’s race.

In fact, less than 24 hours after losing the election, Dalessandri had already met with Democratic Party leaders to discuss his political future.

“All this served to do is energize me,” said the Carbondale Democrat.

Dalessandri didn’t offer many details, however.

“All I can tell you is that we met this morning,” he said Wednesday. “We’re keeping all our options open. We’re definitely not out of the game by any stretch.”

Garfield County Democratic Party Chairwoman Leslie Robinson gave more insight.

“I look at the future thinking that Tom is going to be a better candidate in up and coming races,” she said. “There’s quite a few coming up, from the state senate to Congress.

“I really think Tom is a very talented person, so I don’t see this as a setback to his political career at all. In fact, I don’t know that I wanted him to be tied down for four more years,” she added.

Dalessandri said Vallario’s negative ads played a part in the race outcome, as did the large amount of money his Republican challenger was able to raise.

“I was actually very surprised,” Dalessandri said of his defeat. “Mainly from responses received door-to-door, it was very positive. That part of it had me puzzled for sure. We had a good eight years, and we did a lot for this county.”

The actual administration changeover won’t happen until Jan. 14, giving both sides more than two months to prepare. Most of the decisions about that transition, Dalessandri said, will be made by the incoming sheriff-elect Vallario.

Dalessandri said he hasn’t talked to many of the sheriff’s department employees since his defeat was certain. But he said there is always the chance some of his staff members could be replaced.

“There’s always a concern for anyone who works for someone in an elected position,” he said.

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