Snowmass rancher Steve Child was elected to the board of Pitkin County commissioners Tuesday, besting John Young with 55 percent of the vote.
Child, 64, is a lifelong cattle rancher and the son of the late Commissioner Bob Child.
He took 4,413 votes, according to an unofficial tally, to succeed term-limited Commissioner Jack Hatfield representing District 4 on the county board. Young, a land use and affordable housing consultant, collected 3,595 votes.
“I think the fact that I have a thoughtful and practical approach on many issues facing the county was convincing to people,” Child said Tuesday night at La Cantina, where he watched election returns with fellow local Democrats.
Child split his Election Day between doing work on his family’s ranch, canvassing for the Obama campaign and attending choir practice at St. Mary’s Catholic Church, before going to the election party.
Young wished Child well, and said he didn’t plan to run again for local office. He narrowly lost a race for the seat to Hatfield in 2000.
“I’m obviously disappointed and a bit surprised,” Young said. “I had a lot of positive feedback out there. But [Child] won fair and square.”
In the June primary narrowing the field from four candidates, Child won 38 percent of the vote to Young’s 30 percent. His candidacy gained momentum before the primary with endorsements from nine former county commissioners — including Hatfield.
Child said he felt the race was tightening this fall, due largely to Young’s staunch anti-drilling stance on natural gas. Child has been more moderate on the issue, saying county officials will have to deal with the reality of gas drilling here.
“A few weeks ago, I was really nervous,” he said. “Because he kept hammering me on the natural gas issue. But I feel my position is the more sensible one. ... I had a feeling it was backfiring on me.”
Young said he was also surprised the natural gas issue didn’t sway more voters.
“Based on what I found on the street, everybody was concerned about it,” Young said. “But it wasn’t enough to get me over the hump. I hope Steve pushes back on that as hard as I would have.”
Child said his supporters and advisers also encouraged him to be more aggressive than he was in what he called a “non-traditional campaign.” He didn’t do as much personal campaigning and didn’t distribute lawn signs, while Young did.
His approach in governing the county on the five-member board, he said, would mirror his quiet campaigning style.
“I truly took my dad’s style,” he said, “to be a good listener and spend more time listening than talking.”
Child was heading for a week-long vacation to St. John, in the Virgin Islands, Wednesday morning.
He said he would treat his county duties as “close to a full-time job,” while continuing to run his family ranch and filling in occasionally driving a Snowmass Village bus.