by Rick Langenberg:
The recent appointment of Krystal Brown as the new Teller County Clerk and Recorder put a temporary end to a lengthy political soap opera, featuring grandiose speeches from our current and former county commissioners, threats by the secretary of state, record spending and a slew of allegations.
At times, the usual dull proceedings of the commissioners were transformed into a royal political stage for voicing gripes about virtually every department and subject in the county, running the gamut from the sheriff’s office and the clerk and recorder, to local media coverage and lawsuits. I can’t say I minded too much as some of the exchanges, dominating commissioner forums in past months, provided good fodder for entertainment.
But now that this chapter has been put to bed, it’s time to consider one possible common sense solution: Turn the Clerk and Recorder position into an appointed slot, or at the very least, extend term limits for this position and possibly a few other more technical offices, such as that of the assessor.
That way the past controversies surrounding the clerk’s office could be avoided and the county wouldn’t have to grapple with staff turnover every four years and losing good elected officials who have developed a good rapport with the Teller citizens. More importantly, it may remove the temptation of some would-be elected officials, who don’t have the technical expertise to handle these positions, to run for these offices. For some reason, certain more technical-based Teller elected positions, such as the clerk, have attracted a variety of candidates in recent years, while the real political jobs, such as county commissioners, have attracted hardly any interest. The one exception involved the races for the District One and District Three commissioner slots, currently held by Norm Steen and Marc Dettenrieder. But even here, these positions were primarily decided by county GOP leaders and not by the general public. (That will be the subject of a future column at another time, as we need to get elections away from the current good o’l boy tradition and eliminate party caucuses and assemblies altogether. We don’t need to have county elections decided by 100 people.) And when current Chairman Dave Paul sought the District Two position several years ago, he didn’t face a single opponent.
Instead, jobs that should be decided by merit and experience have turned into a political slug match. The last two clerk races ignited much political tension, with challengers who made too many unrealistic promises and didn’t really address the real issues at hand. Bad craziness.
The county attempted a previous effort to extend term limits a number of years back, but the organizers orchestrated such a lousy campaign that it might be more remembered as what not to do.
I say with the most recent brouhaha surrounding the clerk’s office, it’s time to revisit the touchy subject of term limits and even consider more permanent appointments. It is certainly time to turn the clerk and recorder slot into an appointed position, or more realistically, just extend the term limits from eight years (two terms) to 12. For right now, I would limit the possible term extensions to the clerk and assessor positions. But maybe down the road, this idea could be extended to include the sheriff and coroner. And if you don’t like a particular elected official, you still have the option to give that person the boot. The idea of extending term limits for certain positions is certainly worth putting on a future election ballot.
Of course, the other side of the argument deals with selling this idea to the voters. Extending term limits has been met with opposition in many counties. Some feel it creates complacency, promotes a good ol’ boy system and allows individuals to occupy elected spots for too long. At the same time, if someone is doing a good job, why should they have to give up their seat.
The recent vote by the U.S. Senate not to pass any gun control measures may allow this hot bed issue to take a needed breather. But don’t look for that to happen in Teller County.
In reality, this is one topic that has propelled Colorado onto the national spotlight. Actually, both the state Democratic and Republicans leaders did decent jobs in conveying their positions, whether you are for gun safety laws or not. For state Republicans, it is one issue they have rallied together on quite effectively in opposing gun restrictions. That marks a vast improvement from their continual habit of eating crow on social issues and conducting more bizarre campaigns, such as restricting people’s right to vote. Let’s face it, for a party that has more registered members statewide than the Dems, the state Republicans have recorded quite a dismal, track record regarding key elections in recent months and years, such as losing the state House and Senate and getting slaughtered in the last governor’s race. For too long, the Republican nutcases have ruled the state party. But they may have found their path in fighting gun control and refueling their campaign weapons with good facts.
On a local level, Sheriff Mike Ensminger did a comprehensive job in outlining the problems with the five laws recently approved by lawmakers and how they are unenforceable. The rubber will hit the mat in late June, and hopefully residents will get more answers to key questions at the sheriff’s future town hall meetings.
In my opinion, the gun control motives are definitely political for Democratic lawmakers. And that may turn into a blessing for Teller County. The best scenario for Teller County: Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper gets selected as a vice-presidential Democratic candidate in the 2016 presidential election and we will no longer have to deal with his anti-gaming and anti-rural attitude any longer. Good riddance.
And depending on the election ambitions of Hillary Clinton, Hick may even make a national bid for high office. That’s an even better scenario. I think we should support his campaign, as long as he promises to leave the state. Heck, if that occurs, the TMJ may even throw Hick a grand, “I am leaving Colorado” party.