Challenger for Garfield County treasurer says office should avoid partisan influences
Editor’s note: This continues our ongoing series of articles in the coming weeks touching on the issues in the contested races for Garfield County elected offices that will be decided in the Nov. 8 election.
“Cronyism” is how Aron Diaz described the Republican Garfield County commissioners’ appointment of one of their party leaders two years ago to fill the vacant county Treasurer’s Office position.
Carrie Couey, who at the time chaired the Garfield County Republican Party, was picked to replace fellow Republican Karla Bagley, who resigned in March 2020 to take a job out of state.
Now Diaz, a former Republican who switched his affiliation to the Democratic Party following his dismay over the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol led by supporters of former President Donald Trump, is touting the endorsements for the post of both Bagley and her Democratic predecessor, longtime Treasurer Georgia Chamberlain.
Couey and Diaz will square off for the Treasurer’s Office in the Nov. 8 election.
“I was perturbed by the appointment process that the commissioners went through and the selection of a partisan crony of theirs,” said Diaz, a Rifle native and former Silt town trustee from 2014-18.
“The Treasurer’s Office is an administrative office, and it should not be influenced by partisan politics,” he said. “There’s not a lot of policy involved with that office, and with my administrative background I think I could do the office some good.”
Couey runs a ranch near Silt with her husband, Kelly, and has a background in business and accounting with an executive master’s degree in organizational leadership, specializing in public and nonprofit management.
She said she was simply the most qualified for the job among the three candidates who applied for the treasurer’s vacancy.
“I was chosen because I had the best fit for the qualifications of the job,” Couey said.
As for her politics, she said she has been a supporter of Republican candidates and an active member of the party, “because I believe in limited government,” she said.
“In my previous role, I did put effort into getting certain people elected, but when I was appointed to be treasurer I resigned from that position because I felt personally that it was a conflict of interest,” Couey said.
As for political support of the commissioners, she also said she has donated less than $3,000 to the Republican incumbents over the last 12 years.
And as for the job of treasurer, “We have had some relative successes in that short period of time,” she said.
Under her watch, she noted the county recovered $5.8 million in back taxes resulting from energy company Ursa Piceance’s bankruptcy proceedings.
“We have a good (tax) collection percentage, with good audits and good cash management,” Couey added. “We also have a friendly staff that works well together and greets the public ready to serve their needs.”
Diaz takes some issue with that assessment, and said the office staff could use some more support. But a recent request of the commissioners by Couey for two additional staff positions, which was granted, was “premature,” he said, and a “bad faith” request just before the election.
“I understand where they are coming from on that,” Diaz said. “Overall, we need to be doing what we can to assist the treasurer’s staff, and to help them do their job better so they can serve the people of Garfield County.”
Couey said one of those new positions is part of a succession-training plan for a senior staff member who is retiring next year, so it won’t be an additional position after that retirement takes effect.
The other position was needed because the workload in the department was making it difficult to cover for people who were on vacation, she said.
“We have been running the office with very lean staff, and we’ve had zero turnover, except for one retirement and one person hired,” Couey said.
In addition to her work of the past two years and previous political involvement, Couey noted her work with a startup nonprofit that she and Kelly now run, Rocky Mountain Veterans Hunts and Excursions, which serves veterans with PTSD and disabilities.
She has also served as vice chair of the Colorado Commission on Judicial Performance, has been involved with the local Farm Bureau and sits on the Colorado Mountain College Rifle Campus scholarship selection committee.
Diaz is a Rifle High School graduate and earned his master’s in public administration. He worked with Republican former state Rep. Russell George of Rifle when he was in the state House in the 1990s, and was director of Associated Governments of Northwest Colorado for a stint and chaired the Silt Urban Renewal Authority while on the Silt Town Board.
“After what I saw with the way the Republican Party drifted away from some of its core principles, and the massive acceptance of Trumpism, I left the party,” Diaz said.
Senior Reporter/Managing Editor John Stroud can be reached at 970-384-9160 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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