Meet the candidates
A filter-free look at the people running for office in Southwest Colorado

Meet the candidates
Tracy Chamberlin - 10/18/2018

Ever wonder what the sheriff’s hidden talent is? Or maybe what representatives listen to before heading into the State Capitol for a vote? Well, now’s the time to find out.

This week, The Telegraph closes out its coverage of the November election with our Candidate Questionnaire. Contenders vying for your votes get a chance to share a few fun facts about themselves, as well as address some key issues communities in the Southwest are facing. Here are their responses.


La Plata County Commissioner (at-large, District 1):

Clyde Church (challenger, Democrat)

Previous/current occupation: Semiconductor process engineer and executive of three Fortune 500 companies. 

What do you enjoy doing when not on the campaign trail? Wood working and building tables for family and friends, hiking and hunting.

What song would you want your music player to be stuck on? “The Olympic Spirit” on “Summon the Heroes”

What is your hidden talent? Playing the Native American wooden flute.

Residents have raised concerns with the County’s attempt to update the Land Use Code. How much of a priority do you think the code update is, and how would you get the process back on track? Revising the Land Use Code and updating the zoning is a large and complex process involving hundreds of citizens, legal, planning staff and BoCC. I would say that reducing the time and cost involved in a land use application is second to the 2019 and 2020 budget. I would work between the citizens and planning groups to facilitate communications, improve clarity and look for out-of-the-box opportunities.


Brad Blake (incumbent, Republican)

Previous/current occupation: Plumbing and heating contractor, solar company owner, County Commissioner

What do you enjoy doing when not on the campaign trail? Spending time with family, traveling, photography, home building, skiing, boating, four-wheeling.

What song would you want your music player to be stuck on? Anything by Bob Seger or the Eagles

What is your hidden talent? Home design

Residents have raised concerns with the County’s attempt to update the Land Use Code. How much of a priority do you think the code update is, and how would you get the process back on track? I feel the update of the Land Use Code is a very high priority. In addition, the process whereby projects are approved or denied needs to be completely updated and streamlined. The process of re-writing the Land Use Code is already under way and it is being done in-house. The public let us know they wanted our county staff and attorneys to write the new code with as little outside help as possible. I like hearing the thoughts and concerns of all people in the community, and the district plans will help with this task. Input from the residents in the county is extremely important and will help in a new code that works for everyone.


La Plata County Sheriff:

Dean Mize (challenger, unaffiliated)

Previous/current occupation: Deputy and trail ride-hunting outfitter

What do you enjoy doing when not on the campaign trail? Jumping on the trampoline with my kiddos and riding my horses.

What song would you want your music player to be stuck on? “Good Night Baby” by Tom Petty and “The Zoo” by the Scorpions.

What is your hidden talent? Playing the drums.

La Plata County and Durango have been attempting to address homelessness and panhandling over the past few years. How do you define the problem and what are some possible solutions? I would define the problem as one that is not just a local issue but a national one. I believe it should be approached on a case-by-case basis with officer discretion playing a large part, with the goal of doing what is right for the public and the person.


Charles Hamby (challenger, Republican)

Previous/current occupation: I am going on my 30th year in law enforcement. I have worked at the city, county, state and federal levels of law enforcement. I am currently a captain with a federal agency in Southwest Colorado.

What do you enjoy doing when not on the campaign trail? Spending time with my wife, Dianna. We have been married going on 28 years, and we would spend every minute together if we could.

What song would you want your music player to be stuck on? Zac Brown’s mix of “Free/Into the Mystic.” It’s my wife’s favorite song, and I think of her whenever I hear it

What is your hidden talent? Dancing with my wife.

La Plata County and Durango have been attempting to address homelessness and panhandling over the past few years. How do you define the problem and what are some possible solutions? Being homeless is not a crime, however, camping on county property is a crime (C.R.S. 18-9-117). Illegal camping is not a victimless crime. The citizens living in the area of the illegal camp have had their quality of life affected, and they are not getting equal protection under the law in accordance with our 14th Amendment. As sheriff, you cannot pick and choose what laws to enforce, nor can you pick and choose the constitutional rights you are going to uphold. You have a responsibility to be involved with our community and organizations in coming up with a solution for dealing with the issues of homelessness, but you cannot turn a blind eye to violations of the law in doing so. 


Sean Smith (incumbent, Democrat)

Previous/current occupation: County sheriff

What do you enjoy doing when not on the campaign trail? Listening to live music at Derailed with my wife!

What song would you want your music player to be stuck on? “I’m Yours” by Jason Mraz

What is your hidden talent? Beat boxing

La Plata County and Durango have been attempting to address homelessness and panhandling over the past few years. How do you define the problem and what are some possible Smith solutions? The courts have set specific case law on this issue that defines what actions law enforcement can take. However, this is a social issue that will not be solved by law enforcement. I am currently part of a bi-weekly working group with the City, County, Durango PD and nonprofits that is exploring short-term and long-term approaches that will not only be designed to meet the needs of those experiencing homelessness in our community, but seek to lessen the impacts on the broader community at the same time. I have personally toured managed solutions that are working in other communities, and I think we have the right people involved to do the same thing here. Doing nothing is not the right answer for our community!


La Plata County Treasurer:

Allison Aichele (incumbent, Democrat)

Previous/current occupation: La Plata County treasurer. Past: director for Lyondellbasell; program manager, Microsoft; Freightliner Trucks; Pacific Gas and Electric; US Banks.

What do you enjoy doing when not on the campaign trail? Reading, cooking, hiking

What song would you want your music player to be stuck on? Beethoven’s 9th Symphony

What is your hidden talent? Cooking and singing

What specific challenges does the county Treasurer’s Office face in the future, and how would you address those challenges? Budget constraints do not allow for additional staff members, or the training or development of them. They learn through coaching and mentoring. The office has had the same head-count since the 1980s. It is up to the leader of this office to ensure the current staff, and any future replacement staff, have the skills and abilities to do the work. The work load will always increase. The technology skill requirements will always increase. Customer service requirements will increase. Implementing credit card and other on-line payments systems was very complex. All the while, as each of these employees must learn new skills, paramount is to remain accurate to the penny, with tax dollar funds for all the different tax authorities. And we do that. Together.


Colton Black (challenger, Republican)

Previous/current occupation: Senior banker and brokerage associate

What do you enjoy doing when not on the campaign trail? Spending time with my 3-year-old son! His favorite things are going hiking or jumping on the trampoline.

What song would you want your music player to be stuck on? “Get Along” by Kenny Chesney

What is your hidden talent? I’m actually a surprisingly good cook, thanks to my mom!

What specific challenges does the county Treasurer’s Office face in the future, and how would you address those challenges? Firstly, the material weakness findings in the past two audits must get addressed. With declining revenue for our county, we can’t afford to continue spending money on more expensive audits. There are best practices in the industry that can be implemented to fix the internal control problems identified in the most recent audit, without increasing staff. Second, the future of payments is electronic, and the next generation of taxpayers will expect more convenient electronic and mobile payment options. Having a background in banking, I am very familiar with the emerging technology in these realms. I will be able to leverage that knowledge to implement and educate taxpayers on these payment options to increase their utilization and efficiency. This will also help automate the processing of more payments reducing staff workload and making the whole office more efficient!


Colorado State Senate (District 6):

Guinn Unger (challenger, Democrat)

Previous/current occupation: I am currently retired. Previously I was a software developer and computer consultant. Also owned three small businesses. Twenty-eight years of service in the U.S. Army Reserve 

What do you enjoy doing when not on the campaign trail? Hiking and walking with my dog. Reading all kinds of books.

What song would you want your music player to be stuck on? “Help” by the Beatles

What is your hidden talent? I play the trumpet and guitar, and play around with a few other instruments.

If elected, what would be the first piece of legislation you would introduce when the session convenes in January? A bill to equalize health insurance premiums between the Front Range and Western Slope.


Editor’s note: State Senator Don Coram, R-Montrose, was given the questionnaire, but did not respond.


Candidates for Colorado State Representative (District 59)

Paul Jones (challenger, independent)

Previous/current occupation: Game warden, habitat biologist, aquatic conservation biologist with Colorado Parks and Wildlife (I’m still a biologist at heart!)

What do you enjoy doing when not on the campaign trail? I’ve missed the best dry-fly fishing of the year, and I haven’t been able to work on my forge either, no one warned me about that!

What song would you want your music player to be stuck on? “S.O.B” by Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats – that man can howl, and his lyrics speak about lives like ours, besides that song keeps me awake on Red Mountain in the middle of the night.

What is your hidden talent? Dutch oven cooking over a camp fire (I haven’t gotten to do that lately either ... this is getting depressing).

If elected, what would be the first piece of legislation you would introduce when the session convenes in January? I know it’s not exciting, but I think the highest priority for the state right now is resolving conflicts between TABOR, Gallagher and Amendment 23. If you look at the struggles that the state, counties and municipalities face trying to provide essential services, these conflicts are making it extremely difficult for those entities to respond to changing economic circumstances. Once resolved, it will be much easier for us to look at the other challenges such as school funding, infrastructure, housing, roads, etc. that are also important.


Barbara McLachlan (incumbent, Democrat)

Previous/current occupation: Currently, your state representative. Previously, a high school teacher who loved her job.

What do you enjoy doing when not on the campaign trail? Reading, skiing and attending our daughter Kate’s comedy shows.

What song would you want your music player to be stuck on? “The Wind” by Cat Stevens

What is your hidden talent? I don’t know if it’s a hidden talent, but I am double jointed. It can creep people out.

If elected, what would be the first piece of legislation you would introduce when the session convenes in January? Through the Wildfire Review Committee, I’m sending a bill to monitor drones so they don’t fly over wildfires or other dangerous situations. Our firefighters had to stop working this summer because of the drones.

The Telegraph returns next week with our Ballot Cheat Sheet, where we give readers our take on the issues. To keep up with the ballot breakdown, visit www.durangotelegraph.com.