Buglione says he’ll bring new energy as Pitkin County sheriff

Pitkin County sheriff candidate Michael Buglione talks to his supporters during a watch party at Mezzaluna on Tuesday, in Aspen.
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

Pitkin County sheriff-elect Michael Buglione on Wednesday credited his election victory to grassroots campaigning, hard work, and handshakes.

He topped incumbent Joe DiSalvo by scoring 52.23% of the votes cast in Tuesday’s elections, according to the Pitkin County Clerk & Recorder’s Office. Buglione amassed 4,671 votes to DiSalvo’s 4,272.

Buglione also ran as a Democrat and had the backing of the county party.

“It definitely helped, but I think a lot of the support came from the whole grassroots effort that went throughout the county, with me and my supporters knocking on doors and not just depending on the internet and websites,” he said. “It was face to face.”

The unofficial results did not include provisional ballots, which need to be verified and counted before the results can be certified, a county clerk’s employee said. The certification deadline is Nov. 22.

Buglione’s unofficial advantage of 399 votes over DiSalvo, however, was enough for the three-term incumbent to take the returns as a defeat. It wasn’t until 1:50 a.m. Wednesday that the final returns were uploaded to the county’s website.

“I respect more than anything the will of the people, and, when you take this job, you accept that,” DiSalvo said.

Buglione said, “It was a close race, and hopefully I can gain the trust and confidence of all those that voted Joe and move forward.”

He added, “I’m bringing new energy; I’m hands-on and full-time, and, like I’ve been saying on my entire campaign, I’m going to make things happen.” He touched on what he said were the his campaign’s four pillars — providing better resources to address mental health and substance abuse, focusing on public safety, creating housing for deputies, and not building a new jail.

From letters to the editor to social-media posts to in-person conflicts, the campaign at times took on the tenor and rhetoric similar to the divisive ones playing out on national stages. Both candidates distanced themselves from the political attacks.

Buglione said, “I learned that taking the high road and staying on the high road on my Facebook and Instagram accounts, on my website, there was nothing derogatory or negative about Joe. I can’t say the same thing about my opponent.”

For his part, DiSalvo said he, too, took the high road during the campaign.

“I think we ran a good, clean campaign, and we were working against a lot,” he said. “And, I’m proud of the campaign. I think what Pitkin County expects in elections — we have a very intelligent community — I think they want high-level campaigns.”

DiSalvo, who ran as an independent, wasn’t quiet on his social-media account in the week leading up to Election Day, questioning Buglione’s integrity and his trustworthiness, in what was an apparent response to the criticism he’d received over his vision for a jail facility, his Republican landlord, and his minority ownership in a vodka branded launched by Lance Armstrong.

Meanwhile, the Pitkin County Democratic Party on Friday sent an email urging people to vote “Michael Buglione for Sheriff, who will work hard, carry on the Kienast/Braudis legacy of community policing (It was Bob who hired him), have a fair and humane policy for the (new or not) jail, fund housing for deputies, and avoid the quagmire of dubious gifts (5% of a vodka business from one of the most notorious cheaters in the history of sport) and emoluments (see: a West End rental at a fraction of its market value) the present Sheriff has gotten himself into in the self-described ‘feathering his nest’ phase of life in which he finds himself.”

The Kienast/Braudis legacy was in reference to DiSalvo’s two immediate predecessors, the late Dick Kienast and Bob Braudis, who died in June.

DiSalvo said he’ll miss the job when he leaves in January after Buglione is sworn in. He had no plans to congratulate Buglione on his victory, saying that the election results spoke for themselves.

“I think the biggest void is going to be working with the people I worked with,” he said. “They are unbelievable, and they keep me up and lift my spirits with their performance. That’s going to be the biggest void — I’m going to miss them horribly.”

Buglione said it was too early for him to talk about any personnel decisions when he takes office.

“I’m encouraging all them to do what’s best for their family and this community,” DiSalvo said. “I think they should stay and finish the jobs they started; that’s what I’m encouraging them to do. The community is more important than this election.”

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