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Crowd on hand to welcome new county officeholders

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – The general election of 2002 had one more trick in store for Garfield County residents Tuesday morning.

With upset winners Tresi Houpt and Lou Vallario taking center stage, Tuesday’s swearing in ceremony for five Garfield County elected officials was packed tight as a contentious public hearing. The only difference was, all these folks were happy.

“This is the fullest this room has been since the Courthouse Plaza opened,” said a smiling Mildred Alsdorf, after being sworn in as Garfield County clerk and recorder for the seventh time in her public service career.



Friends and relatives of the winners, campaign workers, political party officials, and county and city employees started filtering into the county commissioners’ meeting room about 20 minutes before the 9 a.m. ceremony.

Houpt, a Glenwood Springs Democrat who won her first county commissioner race in November, was one of the first to arrive. Fellow Democrat Emmy Lerma caught Houpt at the commission room’s front door and gave her a hug.



“Thank you so much,” Lerma said.

Looking down at Frank Houpt, the new commissioner’s 10-year-old son, Lerma asked, “Aren’t you proud?”

At 8:45 a.m., 9th District Judge Thomas Ossola and Jim Larson stood chatting in the still empty room. Within 10 minutes, most of the chairs were taken, people had started to take spots along the walls, and Greg Jeung squeezed into a standing-room-only section next to friend Dar Lahe.

“I’ll just put my nose in this corner,” Jeung told Lahe.

“You’re over here with the all the riff-raff and shady characters,” Lahe shot back.

At least Jeung and Lahe had their own comfy corner. Dennis Carey had to lean against a support column, a little more than an arm’s length from Jeung and Lahe. When Mark Gould started inching his way through the crowd toward the three with no final destination ready, Carey told him, “You can share my pole.”

An audience member in the back of the room joked that for once, all the Republicans were on the left and the Democrats were on the right.

County Commissioner John Martin motioned to people in the foyer to take a place along the wall at the front of the room. “Come on guys. Come on up front,” Martin said. They stood next to 9th District Attorney Mac Myers, who took his post there a few minutes earlier.

Ossola swore in the elected officials one by one, flanked by U.S. and Colorado flags.

Just after he started the ceremony, a cell phone started beeping in the back of the room. Several people fished for them in purses and pockets, but the judge did not gavel down the offending cell phone owner.

He continued, saying the oath’s most important charge is that officeholders will “faithfully perform the duties of the office.”

“That is the essence of public office,” Ossola said.

Houpt was sworn in first, as camera flashes flickered throughout the short oath. The audience listened intently while Houpt made her brief remarks. She thanked everyone for attending the ceremony, reminded everyone they live in one of the most beautiful counties in the world, but with that privilege comes a “huge responsibility” to care for the land.

“We have to work together for future generations, to be good stewards,” Houpt said.

Houpt concluded her speech by inviting residents to call her with their concerns. “I look forward to working with all of you for the next four years,” she said.

Next up was Lou Vallario, Garfield County’s new sheriff. After Vallario took his oath, he opened his blue blazer while Ossola explained he’d been asked to pin the sheriff’s badge over Vallario’s left shirt pocket.

“This doesn’t mean we’re engaged,” Vallario joked, as Ossola pinned on the badge.

“The last time I did this was for a girl at the prom,” Ossola replied.

Vallario said he’ll continue the sheriff department’s professionalism, and “bring it to the next level.”

Vallario said he’ll have an open door policy for the public. “The community will decide how it wants to be policed,” Vallario said. “We’re going to do the best we can for Garfield County.”

By the time Ossola swore in Alsdorf, the commission room walls were completely circled with people, and a sizable contingent peered in from the foyer. Alsdorf, who ran unopposed, thanked her family and staff for their support.

Next to be sworn in was County Assessor Shannon Hurst, who also ran unopposed. She was appointed to the post last year. “I’d like to thank my husband and staff. … My success depends on their support,” Hurst said.

County Coroner Trey Holt, who also ran unopposed, was the final elected official sworn in. He thanked his family and staff, and Alsdorf for “keeping me on track.”

Holt said he didn’t have a lot more to say, and his final comment brought some laughs. “Most people don’t want to hear a coroner’s talk,” he said.

Contact Lynn Burton: 945-8515, ext. 534

lburton@postindependent.com


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