Martin elected to sixth term as Garfield County commissioner |

Martin elected to sixth term as Garfield County commissioner

Ryan Summerlin
Garfield County Commisioner John Martin looks at updated elections numbers with David Merrit at the watch party at K Seas Winghouse on Tuesday evening.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent |

With votes still out in western Garfield County, John Martin had won re-election Tuesday for his sixth term as a Garfield County commissioner.

Martin had 12,834 votes to Democrat John Acha’s 9,575. However, election staff still had a couple thousand votes from Rifle and Parachute left to be verified, which they planned to finish Wednesday morning, said Martin.

Though the odds of that were slim, Martin said he was reluctant to “jinx” himself Tuesday night by assuming the win.

At the end of the night, 23,927 votes had been processed out of the county’s 32,169 eligible votes, making for a nearly 75-percent voter turnout.

The Republican Martin has been on the board of county commissioners for 20 years. He said during his campaign that he plans to retire after this term.

Acha, of New Castle, along with the Garfield County Democrats, launched an investigation that included 19 Colorado Open Records Act requests that yielded tens of thousands of pages of documents that a 10-person data team combed through. Their smoking gun finding was that Martin was required to repay $1,800 to the county for meal money he charged to the county during conference travel despite getting money from another organization in which he has a role.

That led to Democrats accusing Martin of embezzling of public money and District Attorney Sherry Caloia turning the findings over the 5th Judicial District attorney to investigate.

The Democrats says these documents revealed mismanagement and corruption in the county government.

Martin brought the accusations into the public eye when he announced during an October debate that the Democrats had threatened him with indictment unless he stepped down and ensured that no other Republican ran in his place.

Acha also distanced himself from fellow county Democrats since then, saying that his campaign was not involved in a meeting between the Democrats and Martin at which these findings were revealed.

The Democrats also said the board was improperly billing the county for meals during and between county meetings.

Martin and the other commissioners have maintained that these expenses have been legitimate.

The Democrats and Acha also scrutinized several county property acquisitions and the board’s investment approach, claiming the Republican commissioners were poor stewards of county money.

While Acha promoted himself as a change candidate who would reverse the board’s dictatorial style, Martin ran on his 20 years of experience and a promise to steer the county by the same philosophy.

Despite a decrease in property tax revenues tied to natural gas development in the county, Martin has praised the county’s conservative financial approach that’s led to about $126 million in reserves.

One of Martin’s most prized accomplishments is the Federal Mineral Lease District, which over the past five years has funneled nearly $17 million to Garfield County municipalities and other governmental jurisdictions for infrastructure projects.

“Federal mineral leasing is the greatest economic development tool ever created in Colorado,” he says.

Martin proudly points to the county initiatives that don’t rely on taxpayer dollars. During his tenure, the board has never proposed a tax increase. And with his 20 years of experience, he describes himself as an educator passing down institutional knowledge of the county’s operations.

Samson also was up for re-election and was unopposed, so will serve another term on the board.

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