Voters salute tradition in Aspen sheriff's race

By Troy Hooper
Real AspenNovember 3, 2010
Pitkin County voters handed Joe DiSalvo a landslide win in the sheriff's race Tuesday.

The longtime local lawman cruised to victory with 79 percent of the unofficial tally, or 5,182 votes, while Patrick “Rick” Leonard mustered just 21 percent, or 1,358 votes. On a night when a lot of other contests were close, this one was not. On GrassRoots TV's live election show last night, DiSalvo gave credit to all 60 people in the sheriff's office.

“It's a real tribute to our department and the people who work there,” he said.

Joe DiSalvo, middle, basks in victory on the set of GrassRoots TV. Bob Braudis is on the right and election host Brent Gardner-Smith on the left.
DeDe Brinkman

It also was clear that the electorate delivered a clear salute to Bob Braudis, the six-term acting sheriff who groomed DiSalvo for the position, and 1970s-era sheriff Dick Kienast, who mentored Braudis. DiSalvo, now the undersheriff, campaigned on the status quot. While his opponents in August and November ripped the department over perceived shortcomings, DiSalvo celebrated its good standing in the community that has been built on trust and a low-key but sensible approach to law enforcement.

“It is up about giving the people what they want. You can't ever forget who you work for,” DiSalvo said.

Despite ubiquitous support throughout the upper Roaring Fork Valley, DiSalvo campaigned hard. Many of the area's seasoned electioneers offered consultation and joined his team. Braudis served as treasurer. He also had the support of the troops who rallied a Deputies for DiSalvo get-out-the-vote effort. His campaign coffers were also stuffed to the brim: DiSalvo raised over $50,000. Leonard just $6,500.

“We were going to go early and hard. 'Shock and awe' was our joke term for it,” DiSalvo laughed.

Leonard, who criticized the sheriff's office for lax drug enforcement and a lack of big-city expertise, said he was proud to have run a clean campaign and wished DiSalvo and his office the best.

DiSalvo called Leonard “a class act.”

Braudis, meanwhile, noted that he might have run for a seventh term if he wasn't confident in DiSalvo's ability. There are so many veterans in the sheriff's office that many of the deputies joke that when Braudis is on vacation, the department runs on “auto pilot.” Braudis praised the deputies under him.

“You can imagine a scenario where I wanted to hang up the star and there wasn't a Joey,” Braudis said. “I would've been a lot more uneasy. I might not have made this decision.”

The sheriff joked that DiSalvo's only weakness is that he has too big of a heart. Braudis said DiSalvo is soft in the middle, “tender like a pie,” and that he needs to develop a tougher crust to be the top lawman.

As for Braudis, his plan is to reflect on his life and times in Aspen and to write about them. He has been carrying a camera most everywhere he goes, documenting his final months in Aspen.

“The muse is knocking on the door,” said Braudis, adding that he isn't afraid to tell all that he knows. “I'm going to start cranking out some thoughts and that will keep me occupied for a while.”

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